The topic of gun ownership is a contentious one. In Australia we were jolted into taking action to address the matter following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre - 35 people were killed and 23 were wounded in this mass shooting. We have since been commended by many around the world for our efforts to reduce the potential for any further such tragedies.
There has not been a shooting of this magnitude in Australia since the Tasmanian tragedy. However, we cannot disregard the shooting death of four people in Darwin earlier this year, or the murder-suicide in Osmington, Western Australia, where seven members of the same family were shot dead in May 2018.
Meanwhile, the tragedy that unfolded in the Sydney CBD on August 13, where one woman was killed and another injured, further raises safety concerns. No doubt many have considered the potential of an even more devastating outcome had the alleged offender had access to guns rather than a knife. In contrast the brave souls who stopped the knife-wielding 20-year-old did so with little more than adrenalin and a milk crate.
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The introducation of Australia's National Firearms Agreement (NFA) following Port Arthur ensured greater safety of our citizens. Private owners were licensed, personal firearms registered, licensing laws tightened and thousands of firearms, including those now banned, were relinquished and destroyed.
Many Australians are frustrated with other countries, in particular the United States, which have not followed our gun control lead. Their ire is inflamed with almost daily news of a mass shooting somewhere in the USA. In the first 14 days of August, 2019 there were 15 mass shootings across the USA. The worst resulted in the death of 22 people with 24 injured in Texas, on August 3. Meanwhile 10 people were killed and 17 injured in a shooting in Ohio on August 4.
Would Australia have gone down a similar tragic path without the change to gun laws? We can only speculate. Clearly there are still plenty of people in the community licenced to hold firearms. In one case in the Southern Highlands a single person has 124 firearm licenses. Many may wonder why there is a need for so many weapons of this type. We are told by those in sporting and farming circles that different guns are needed for different targets in the sport of rifle shooting, pest control and hunting. Many would no doubt still question the need for 124 guns.
Here's hoping that the strict screening of licensed owners is ticking the boxes to ensure the safety of all.