"What we can offer is our experience," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Tuesday, pointing to a 1996 gun policy reform Australia undertook after a mass shooting killed 35 people in Tasmania. Bishop spoke to reporters after Monday's mass shooting in Las Vegas resulted in calls from Democrats to reform Americas gun laws and Australia has been mentioned as a possible model for reform.
"But at the end of the day it's going to be up to the United States legislators and lawmakers, and the United States public, to change the laws to ensure this type of incident doesn't happen again."
Australia was devastated in 1996 when a lone gunman armed with semi-automatic weapons killed 35 at the historic Tasmanian colonial convict site of Port Arthur.
Within twelve days, Australia’s newly elected conservative Prime Minister John Howard announced a bipartisan deal with state and local governments to enact sweeping gun-control measures to prevent future mass shootings.
The reform featured a massive buyback of more than 600,000 semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, which was one-fifth of all firearms in circulation in Australia at the time.
The buy back program countinues to this day. A firearms amnesty just ran from July 1 to September 30 allowing anyone with unwanted or unregistered firearms to legally register or drop them off without fear of being arrested or prosecuted resulted in 28,000 guns being surrendered or registered.
Australia's new gun laws stopped private sales of weapons, required all weapons registered to their owners and even required that gun buyers present a “genuine reason” for purchasing the weapon - self-defense not included.
As a result of the measures Australia has not had a mass shooting since 1996, despite having 11 in the previous decade alone, and homicide and suicide rates by guns dropped dramatically.
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