On Thursday, Australia will commemorate the Port Arthur anniversary, one of the worst gun tragedies of the country.
The Port Arthur anniversary has special significance to Carolyn Loughton. Loughton is one of the survivors of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. She lost her 15-year-old daughter, Sarah when a gunman with two semi-automatic assault rifles took head shots at a packed café in Port Arthur. there were 35 people were killed in the massacre.
Carolyn said, “It’s not like in the movies. You’re either dead or you’re playing dead and it’s very quiet, other than the explosion of the gun.”
Following the mass slaughter, the country had introduced some strictest and toughest gun laws in the world.
At that time, John Howard was the newly elected Prime Minister of the country and it was only 6 weeks into his job.
Reminiscing the day and the events that followed, Howard said, “Later that day the premier of Tasmania, Tony Rundle, rang me. Even at that early stage we talked about the possibility of tightening the gun laws.”
He further stated, “How did I react? I immediately focused on what I could do. It seemed to me that I had to do something big because it was such an awful tragedy.”
John Howard’s handling of the situation positioned him as one of the strong, determined and practical leaders of the country. He immediately rushed to Tasmania to attend services and met traumatised emergency workers, reported The Sydney Morning Herald. But at the same time, he was constantly thinking about preventing such situations happening in future.
Immediately after that, the federal government worked with the state government to buy back the banned weapons and weapons people no longer wanted. New laws on licensing and storage of legal weapons were introduced. Those people who needed a weapon for their livelihood had to apply for license and lock the gun in storage after unloading.
After the massacre, there was a very sharp decline in gun-related killings. In 1996, 516 gun-related murders happened while in 2014 the number is down to 230, reported ft.com. Suicide related to fire arms also has a drastic fall from 382 to 178 over the same period.
US President Barack Obama appreciated the Australia’s initiative after Port Arthur and he also praised former Prime Minister John Howard for his handling of the situation. Hillary Clinton also praised Australia’s gun law.
Nevertheless, Australian gun lobby does not agree with the fact and says that the fall followed a trend in place before the Port Arthur massacre.
David Leyonhjelm, a senator and gun sports enthusiast said, “When the government has all the guns the people are subjects, and when the people have guns they are citizens.”
Port Arthur anniversary is approaching and it has been twenty years but there are some people who still question the Australian gun laws.