Friday, October 2, 2015

Port Arthur Massacre: The Shooting Spree That Changed Australia's Gun Laws

The question is often asked in the somber aftermath of a shooting massacre: how many deaths will it take before America changes its gun laws? And while a political solution remains elusive, mass killings such as those in Roseburg, Charleston, Chattanooga and Lafayette continue with alarming frequency across the U.S. — a recent study found one occurs in America every two weeks. But for Australia, a single massacre changed everything. In 1996, Martin Bryant entered a cafĂ© at the site of a historic penal colony at Port Arthur, Tasmania. The 28-year-old ate lunch before pulling a semi-automatic rifle from his bag and embarking on a killing spree. By the time he was apprehended the next morning, 35 people were dead and 23 had been wounded. Bryant had become the worst mass-murderer in Australia's history. "There were people everywhere — bodies," witness Lynne Beavis told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and newsplanetb after Bryant opened fire. "It's just so indescribable what had happened in there." She added: "I thought at the time, being a nurse, 'I've seen dead people, I've seen blood, I've seen things like this.' But what I saw in there, nobody but perhaps a soldier would know what it was like." Australia had experienced mass shootings before, but the Port Arthur massacre shook the nation to its core. Bryant, now 48 and imprisoned for life, was later assessed to have the IQ of an 11-year-old. He told investigators that he'd paid cash for firearms at a local gun dealer. The Australian government subsequently introduced the National Firearms Agreement — legislation that outlawed automatic and semi-automatic rifles, as well as pump-action shotguns. A nationwide gun buyback scheme also saw more than 640,000 weapons turned in to authorities.

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