Sunday, September 23, 2018

Gun Control In Australia- Lessons From Port Arthur Massacre

Credit: Robert Wainwright
Port Arthur Mass Murderer Martin Bryant serving 35 Life Sentences

Profiles the Gun Control Laws introduced in Australia as a result of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. Compares with similar statistics taken before and after in both countries. Invites meaningful debate

I watch the news of your national tragedy at Newtown and I personally think the ages of the victims makes this truly the most awful mass shooting I have ever seen. I appreciate it is still so raw, that perhaps I should let the dust settle before I even comment, but after seeing a sober report by an Australian academic on morning current affairs, I feel the content of his interview is worth sharing.

I begin by saying, that any comparison between the US, where the right to bear arms is enshrined in your Constitution, and my country Australia, is necessarily skewed. We have a different history and culture on this issue to yourselves. However, to the victims of mass shootings I'm sure we must respond similarly with sentiments such as :- "What an awful tragedy." "What caused this and how can we ensure it doesn't happen again?" "What can/should be done by the government?" etc. Well our story, for what it's worth, on mass shootings is that 16 years ago at Port Arthur, a major tourist landmark in Tasmania, we had a watershed moment. Martin Bryant, a 28 year old man from New Town (I only just appreciated the eerie resemblance) a suburb of Hobart, went on a killing spree in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded. He used two military-style semi-automatic rifles. It remians our worst-ever mass shooting and also one of the deadliest world-wide. He is currently serving 35 life sentences without parole in Risdon Prison. It also emerged he had significant intellectual disabilities and was on a support pension. He had a history of violent and erratic behaviour beginning in early childhood. It led to the reformation of Gun Control Laws in Australia.

What I just heard this morning, from the TV interview, was that in the 16 years prior to 1996, we had the unwanted distinction of having 13 incidents of mass shootings. We were only just behind the US in this regard, who had 16. Considering we have a population of around 20 million, compared to your 300, this is an awful statistic. I was frankly unaware of this. We also had a newly-elected Conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, who decided to tackle the issue head-on. He had just won the year before with a 50 seat lower house majority and he had the support of all State Premiers both Liberal (Conservative) and Labor. He instituted a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and a gun buyback scheme, which purchased and destroyed some 631,000 firearms. In his first public address, at the start of the process, and on advice from security, he wore a bullet-proof vest, visible under his coat. Surveys showed 85% support, but there was significant opposition from some farmers and sporting shooters.

Now since that time, for the last 16 years, various studies have been conducted as to its effects. Some of the data has been skewed in both directions and an early example of this was, in fact, by the American National Rifle Association They claimed in 2000, that violent crime had increased in Australia since the introduction of new laws, but this was based on an unrepresentative sample from newspaper reports. However, and this is the kicker, since that time we have had no other recorded incidents of mass shootings. No more Port Arthurs. No more ugly Martin Bryants. Meanwhile in the US during the same period, 41 incidents of mass shootings have occurred. So, in summary; in the period 1980-1996 :- 16 mass shootings in the US versus 13 in Australia and in the period 1996-2012 :- 41 mass shootings in the US versus 0 in Australia.

i write about this because I would like to hear your reactions. I know the whole nation will be debating exactly this, from the kitchen table to Washington. I would like to close by offering my profound sympathies to all US readers. I wish you well in the coming period.

About the Writer

Since 2009 I have devoted myself to not only writing 2 books on 'Life Cycles', but also maintaining 2 blogs and writing numerous other articles. This is to display the sheer breadth of evidence I have amassed. I have more books and more research planned, after all it isn't every day, you are privileged enough to have discovered the "missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle of life".
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4 comments on Gun Control In Australia- Lessons From Port Arthur Massacre

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By Anastasia on December 16, 2012 at 05:46 pm

An excellent article, Neil. I've just submitted my own spin for publication.

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By Randy Mitchell on December 17, 2012 at 11:26 am

Excellent article. Gun laws, especially those on assault type weapons are a good idea. However, if a criminal, especially a criminally insane individual like the one in Connecticut wants to inflict his evil upon others, they'll always find a way. We live in a very dangerous world and unfortunately there will always be people who cannot be controlled.

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By neil6 on December 19, 2012 at 03:55 pm

Hi Randy,

Yes I agree, but our experience in Australia is that though it may be debatable about Gun Control Laws decreasing violence, they have unquestionably curbed mass killings. Now I concede that may not be reflected in other countries stats, but it has worked for us. I read yeaterday that a New York Times article mentions John Howard's approach during 1996 as a 'roadmap for the issue'. I also read how Connecticut State laws ban military-style semi-automatic weapons, but how ridiculously easy it is to make a couple of modifications to these rifles and they suddenly become legal.

This issue, I'm sure, will be complex and multi-faceted in the US.


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By neil6 on December 19, 2012 at 03:57 pm

Hi Ana,

Yes, your own article was as thought-provoking in its own different way, as I would hope mine would become.

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