On Sunday, 28 April 1996, a young Tasmanian man called Martin Bryant entered a cafe located at the Port Arthur historical site, took a rifle from his bag and started indiscriminately shooting. He pulled out an automatic weapon and started firing at people from nearby sites. Driving up the road, he continued shooting. He had killed 35 people by the time he was finished.
This massacre at Port Arthur sent shock waves around the nation as it was something Australians have never experienced before. This lead to a complete reform of Australia’s gun laws. However, not many Australians saw the reform as a solution to the incidence of violence in society.
The Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, forced through some of the world’s toughest gun laws, including the national buy-back scheme, after the Martin Bryant massacre.
This caused licensed gun-owners to become furious as they thought it was have no impact.
The main legal responses to this issue involved; the government applying gun law reforms and a buy-back scheme which was also introduced by the government to ensure safety.
The gun law reform involved a stricter gun policy which allowed the government to take more action after the massacre. By the end of 1997, the state and federal government signed the National Agreement on Gun Laws. The new laws specifically targeted mass shooting, banning rapid-fire rifles and shotguns. This new law agreed that gun ownership was a privilege not a right, semi-automatic weapons must be strictly controlled and all guns must be registered, guns must be stored securely and there must be a 28 day cooling off period when buying guns.
The national firearm agreement was effective as it has met the needs of the wider Australian community by ensuring uniformity and harmonization on gun control laws. The ‘Australia’s New Gun Control Philosophy’ thought this law to be effective as it has taken a public health approach rather than a criminal justice