TRIBUTE: The Port Arthur Massacre changed Tasmania, and the nation, forever: At the memorial in Port Arthur today, the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority visitor services manager and deputy mayor of the Tasman Council, Maria Stacey said today was a day to reflect on what happened 25 years ago
Kindness & LoveX❤️ says God Bless Amen 🙏’s
ABC News: Updated: 3 Hours Ago:
The Port Arthur massacre of 28–29 April 1996 was a mass shooting in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded in Port Arthur, Tasmania. The murderer, Martin Bryant, pleaded guilty and was given 35 life sentences without possibility of parole. Fundamental changes of gun control laws within Australia followed the incident. The case is the worst massacre in modern Australia committed by a single person:
“Thirthy-five people killed, many physically injured, and countless people who were mentally scarred — 25 years and the pain is still palpable.
“Our lives changed forever that day due to a despicable act of unimaginable violence.
“We commemorate those who died and those who were injured. Today is a day for us to reflect on what happened.”
From the harrowing loss came sweeping political change.
Michael Field, who was the leader of the state opposition at the time of the shooting, said the massacre was a catalyst for change in Australian gun laws.
“We should remember the courage of the then-prime minister John Howard, as well as the political leaders of all political parties that ensured the changes in gun laws passed through the federal Parliament and authorised the gun buy-back scheme,” he said.
In just 12 days after the massacre, the Australian states and territories came together to establish a National Firearms Agreement (NFA), under the pressure of then prime minister John Howard, who had just won the federal election.
“We had an enormous amount of authority as a result,” he said.
“And it was a terrible disaster; it was the largest single death toll from such an event at the hands of an individual ever… and understandably the public wanted something done,” he said.
The NFA restricted ownership of automatic and semi-automatic weapons and made it harder to obtain a gun licence.
It resulted in the destruction of over a million guns.
To this day, the impact of Australia’s gun reform is still evident.
In 1997, Australia had 6.52 licensed firearm owners per 100 people, but by last year that proportion had almost halved, to 3.41.
The number of registered guns in the community has risen only slightly, despite the importation of modern firearms and population growth.
“[The public] do see the laws as having made Australians a safer country,” Mr Howard said.
“They are seen around the world as having been a very strong, effective, adequate response to what was a terrible tragedy, and I think that’s something Australians can derive a great deal of pride in.”
Are gun controls being rolled back?
Hobart lawyer and vice-president of Gun Control Australia Roland Browne led the push for gun control back in the 1990s.
He said “the essence” of the NFA was still intact, but some of the states had rolled back controls.
He cited the fact that silencers are now allowed in New South Wales with a permit, and that the 28-day cooling-off period for gun purchases had been relaxed in some states.
“It’s mindless — gun laws are there to protect the safety of Australian citizens. People want to live in a society where guns are not normalised,” he said.
“I regret that for the foreseeable future, Australians are going to have to fight … to keep our gun laws intact,” he said.
John Howard said the public wouldn’t be silent if the states and territories began making more drastic changes.
“I think the public is very aware that this is something that Australia has done well and they don’t want it disturbed,” Mr Howard said.
“The governments that have followed mine have kept the faith, as far as these laws are concerned, and it’s important that that continue,” he said.
More needs to happen: Browne
Mr Browne said not only did current gun laws need to be maintained, but they also needed to be tightened.
“One of the big issues for my organisation is the availability of semi-automatic handguns that can have magazines of up to 10 bullets,” Mr Browne said.
“These are military weapons — they’re used for target shooting but they’re military weapons, and we’ve seen them misused in Australia in recent years,” he said.
He was also critical of the lack of a National Firearms Register, which the states and territories agreed to establish in 1996.
“There’s no reason that the Commonwealth can’t utilise its various powers over corporations to introduce a national register like that. It has the power to do it and it also has the power to push the states a whole lot harder than it has,” he said.
Mr Browne also wants tighter storage requirements for gun owners, including alarms on storage, to prevent theft.
The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia said it was open to supporting amendments to any laws designed to keep the public safe, but the public benefit needed to be clear before change was implemented.
“Perhaps to reduce any issues around public safety and firearms in Australia we need to look at where the actual source of firearms used in crime come from,” media officer Rachael Oxborrow said.
She denied gun laws had been watered down.
“This was a firearms agreement that was made 25 years ago … and I think it’s about adapting to make sure we realise things change,” she said.
Federal MP supports national register
Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Jason Wood said he was “personally supportive” of a national firearms registry.
But, he added, “it is a state and territory responsibility and we obviously need their support.”
“When it comes to these reforms I can tell you now, the Prime Minister, or whether it be Karen Andrews (Minister for Home Affairs), all of us are very keen to see a national firearms register,” Mr Wood said.
He said on a personal level, claims that some states had relaxed certain controls concerned him and that when it came to semi-automatic handguns he’d be open to more control if that were necessary.
“If the department and law enforcement came to me and said they had concerns about importation I’d definitely have a look at that,” he said.
Victims remembered in small ceremony
The 25th anniversary of the massacre will be marked with a small commemoration at the historic site.
In a statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison paid tribute to the victims and the emergency service workers who responded to the massacre.
“Today we remember and send our love to all those who still bear the scars of that terrible day,” he said.
“The families and friends of those who died; the injured, the survivors, the first responders and all those who witnessed and were impacted by the unspeakable horror of that day.
“We remember the incredible bravery and selflessness as well — the family members who sought to shield and protect others.”
Mr Morrison also praised John Howard and others for “some of the strongest gun laws in the world today, that have served to keep Australians safe”.
#AceNewsDesk report …………Published: Apr.29: 2021:
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