There have been no mass shootings in Australia in two decades since the country implemented tough gun laws and a compulsory gun buyback program. According to researchers, this accomplishment stems from the decrease in people’s access to semiautomatic weapons.

“Here’s a society that recognized a public safety threat, found it unacceptable, and took measures to address the problem,” says health policy researcher Daniel Webster of the Hopkins University.

mass shootings

Washington vigil for the recent Orlando mass shooting. Credit: Ted Eytan/Wikimedia

The study published on June 22 in the Journal of the American Medical Association is based on data of mass shooting incidences in the country before and after the introduction of the gun control law called National Firearms Agreement. The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ mortality data in the past 35 years were also taken into account.

The National Firearms Agreement or NFA is a set of gun laws enacted on June 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre that occurred on April of that same year. The perpetrator used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and injure 18 more in Tasmania.

Consequently, NFA banned the use of semiautomatic long guns. This also caused purchasing other guns more difficult.

Since then, individuals have to prove they really need the gun, pass a safety test and wait at least 28 days. People are also required not to have any restraining orders for violence against them as well as show their good moral character.

Webster laments that the US does not follow the same procedure. In Australia, they have to think hard if they would approve a person to possess a firearm but in the US, everything is essentially the opposite.

In 1996, Australia also introduced the mandatory gun buyback program. This caused the acquisition and termination of over 650,000 shotguns and semiautomatic and pump-action rifles.

Before the NFA, 13 deadly mass shootings occurred in Australia, killing five or more in each incident. On the contrary, Australia has seen zero mass shootings from 1997 to May 1996. Although there have been three shootings since 1997, shooters only killed three or four individuals.

The research team also discovered that gun death rates significantly reduced after 1996. Whether the gun control laws are to be thanked or not remains inconclusive.