...Conservative Prime Minister Advocates Gun Control
In its wake, the country's newly elected, and staunchly conservative Prime Minister, John Howard, championed sweeping changes to the country's gun laws.
‘I think if anything, it helped that John Howard was a conservative prime minister,’ says Dr. Erin O'brien, a professor of criminology at the Queensland University of Technology. ‘It really showed that there was bipartisan support for this.’
O'Brien says the massacre had a galvanizing effect on the public's attitudes toward guns, with polls showing up to 90 percent in favor of some type of new restriction.
The new laws prohibited all automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and imposed strict licensing rules. Even paintball guns need a permit. There are also background checks and lengthy waiting periods for all purchases.
Tim Fischer was deputy prime minister at the time and head of the country's conservative National Party. He was given the task of selling the plan to his rural, pro-gun constituents.
‘There was no doubt it was going to be a very rough road to hoe,’ he said. ‘But, at the end of the day, I could see that Australia could drain the suburbs of semi-automatics and automatics.’
Fischer says he sees no contradiction with being both conservative and in favor of strict gun ownership laws.
‘We too value freedom. But that's not the freedom to own machine guns in the main streets of the U.S. of A.,’ he says. ‘The facts are you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead per capita in the U.S.A. than here in Australia.’
Roland Browne of Gun Control Australia says it's an example the U.S. can follow.
‘It doesn't really matter to what extent you might recognize or even support rights to own firearms,’ he says. ‘Our governments have the pre-eminent responsibility of ensuring public safety.’
Gun violence hasn't been completely eliminated in Australia. But gun-control advocates are quick to point out that there hasn't been a single mass shooting in the 16 years since the laws came into effect.”