Q: A couple of days ago, there was an article in another paper that said Australia has not had a mass shooting since 1996, when they made major changes to their gun control laws. Two questions: Is this true, and if so, what gun control laws does Australia currently have?
—Perry Penton, Smyrna
A: There hasn’t been a mass murder in Australia since April 1996, when 35 people were killed at a tourist spot in Tasmania. Twelve days after the shootings, spurred by John Howard – the prime minister from 1996-2007 — the Australian government passed the National Firearms Agreement, which banned all semiautomatic rifles and semiautomatic and pump-action shotguns, and imposed a stricter licensing system that includes background checks and waiting periods on other firearms, according to published reports. A gun buyback program was launched, and the government bought and destroyed “more than 631,000 of the banned guns at a cost of $500 million,” from Oct. 1, 1996 to Sept. 30, 1997, according to The Wall Street Journal. Philip Alpers, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Sydney who runs GunPolicy.org, which tracks gun violence and gun laws, told ABCNews.com: “Tens, if not hundreds of thousands of gun owners simply, voluntarily gave up guns that they did not need to give up. You could not be a gun owner during that period and not feel terribly persecuted, terribly under threat from public opinion. The commentaries were vicious.” Australians must demonstrate a “justifiable need” – such as being a farmer or sport shooter — to own a gun.
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