After the shocking tragedy in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parklands Florida there were calls for the USA to follow Australia's footsteps with stricter gun laws. While I feel fortunate to be living in a country where I can carry my gun with me at all times, there is a lot about gun ownership that is still unknown. Does it affect the way someone uses firearms and responds to gun violence? Would Australian gun laws really make a difference in the US?"
Among other advanced democracies, Australia's strict gun laws and zero tolerance for handgun ownership make for an interesting case, which I decided to explore in more detail.
The turning point of Australia's modern gun regulations dates back to the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, which cost the lives of 35 people as a result of a rifle rampage orchestrated by a gunman, Martin Bryant. It was considered the worst mass shooting in the history of the nation, prompting the national government to implement immediate changes.
Commemorative plaque honoring the 35 people murdered during the Port Arthur Massacre [Source: WikiMedia]
Contrary to the U.S., Australia has passed severe legislation to decrease the number of firearms in circulation for the past two decades, which slowly made gun deaths extremely rare. One of the latest policies is the permanent gun amnesty program implemented in July 2021, where citizens had the opportunity to surrender unregistered firearms anonymously at police stations.
As a former frontier country, Australia boasts a well-established gun culture.
Australian Soldier on active duty in Borneo during the 1963-65 Indonesia Confrontation [Source: Wikimedia]
Before the fateful event that killed 35 people in the historic site of Port Arthur, Tasmania, guns were mainly used in sports, farming, or recreational hunting. Although each state had its own laws, all jurisdictions limited weapons to security guards and pistol club members, and handguns had to be registered with police before ownership. Because of this restrictive approach, only 5% of the Australian population owned handguns. Yet, things were about to change.
How gun laws changed Australia
The Port Arthur massacre has strongly impacted the country's gun legislation, resulting in the most comprehensive set of firearm laws ever enacted by a nation. After only 12 days of deliberation, all six Australian states agreed to ban semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, considered the deadliest weapons among all categories, by enacting the National Firearms Agreement (NFA). The new law restricted gun registration and licensing and ordered a gun withdrawal out of public circulation. Around 650,000 assault weapons were collected and bought back.
Aside from the main requirements, the new laws also required licensees to take a firearm safety course and demonstrate a "justifiable reason" to own a particular type of gun. While each category of guns required different licenses, all applicants had to undergo a thorough police background check and follow a mandatory 30-day cooling-off period for all license applications. Unlike in the US, self-defense is not enough to justify a person owning a firearm in Australia.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.
8 posts so far.