Australia: A Gun Control Model

by OLIVIA DEGAN

2017 marks the twenty-first anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre. As Americans, many of us may be wondering what this massacre involved, where it occurred, and why it is significant? This tragedy, which took place in Australia in 1996, served to force Australia to enact strict gun control laws. Since then, Australia has achieved enormous success in these pursuits. Twenty years after the Port Arthur massacre, homicide by firearms decreased by about 60% in Australia. In Port Arthur in 1996, thirty-five people were murdered and twenty three people were wounded.  Fifty-nine people were killed in the recent Las Vegas mass shooting. If one shooting in Australia could cause such intense and effective reform in Australia, a nation so historically dependent on guns, why hasn’t the United States followed in its footsteps? How can Australian reform serve as a model for gun control?

The Port Arthur massacre occurred on April 28 and 29, 1996 at the hands of perpetrator Martin Bryant. Bryant purchased an AR-10 semi-automatic rifle using an inheritance from a deceased friend, and this purchase required no official registration in Tasmania, an Australian state, at the time. Using this weapon, Bryant targeted the Port Arthur Historic Site from 11:45 AM on April 28 to 8:00 AM on April 29, at which point Bryant was captured by police.

This event horrified Australians, and as a result, significant political reform took place. The federal government of Australia created widespread reform across all states to restrict gun purchases. The Australian government then devised a mandatory “buy-back” plan, which involved governmental payments being made to gun owners in exchange for turning in their weapons. This way, the Australian government was able to take 643,000 firearms out of the population’s hands. Although this plan was somewhat costly, it was extremely effective. Additionally, the expense was easily covered through a temporary increase in the Medicare levy.

Following this tragic attack in Tasmania, the government enacted strict reforms. However, time and time again, the U.S. government has shown its complete disregard for the gun control problems in our country. Despite the ongoing occurrences of numerous mass shootings in a developed nation with a gun violence rate much higher than the rest, no meaningful governmental reform has taken place to enact gun control. Instead, the NRA’s ties to the government perpetuates gun violence in the United States. How many mass shootings must occur before gun prevalence in the U.S. changes?