Reuters noted that Thursday is the 20th anniversary of a mass shooting on another continent thousands of miles away from America’s shores. A mass shooting shocked the continent of Australia twenty years ago today, on April 28, 1996. Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old from an island state of the Commonwealth of Australia, the state of Tasmania, in New Town, a suburb of Hobart, went on a killing spree in which 35 people were killed and 23 more were wounded. It occurred mainly at the historic Port Arthur former prison colony, a popular tourist site in Tasmania in south-eastern Tasmania, Australia. The mass shooting led to strict gun controls laws that were passed quickly, known as the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which have led directly to a huge decline in gun murders, undermining claims by the United States gun lobbies, and specifically the National Rifle Association (NRA). It is the false contention of the NRA that such curbs imposed in Australia are not the answer to reducing gun violence and that the NFA is in effect, “gun confiscation”.
It is not.
Since that April 28, 1996, there has not been another mass shooting in Australia. The figures directly contradict assertions of most leading U.S. presidential candidates who have either questioned the need to toughen gun laws or directly denounced Australia’s laws as dangerous.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hails the NFA as ‘one of John Howard’s greatest achievements’, 20 years after massacre prompted a massive overhaul of gun laws. Prime Minister Turnbull maintains a strong stance on firearms and says the law is “non-negotiable”. In America, the NRA stands in the way of saving lives with “common sense” approaches to saving innocent lives.
In fact, last January, the NRA released an online video on YouTube, titled “Australia Means Bans & Confiscation”, accompanied by a petition opposing “gun confiscation”. The NRA is mistaken, as Reuters reports the “chances of being murdered by a gun in Australia plunged to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2014 from 0.54 per 100,000 people in 1996, a decline of 72 percent, a Reuters analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showed.” In 1996, Australia had 311 murders, of which 98 were with guns. In 2014, with the population up from about 18 million to 23 million, Australia had 238 murders, of which 35 were with guns.
The debate has spilled over into the presidential campaign.
In a January 2015 tweet, Republican front-runner Donald Trump wrote: “Fact – the tighter the gun laws, the more violence. The criminals will always have guns”. A year later, Republican hopeful Ted Cruz blamed Australia’s gun laws on a rise in sexual assault.
Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton has meanwhile ruled out an Australian-style gun buyback, while Democrat hopeful Bernie Sanders has rejected the need for tougher gun controls despite a gun murder rate of 3.4 per 100,000. However, Hillary Clinton promises to make this a high priority campaign and will address the issue early in her administration if elected.