Asia Minute: What Australia Did After a Mass Shooting

Feb 23, 2018

Credit Cory Doctorow / Flickr

The Prime Minister of Australia is in Washington today and meeting with President Trump. While the topic of mass shootings and guns continue to dominate news in the U.S., Australia has had a very different experience. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Twenty-two years ago, a 28-year old man on the Australian island of Tasmania went on a shooting rampage with semi-automatic weapons—including an AR-15 rifle. He killed 35 people and wounded 18 more.

Within two weeks, Australia’s conservative prime minister introduced a federal bill banning the sale and importation of all automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. The legislation was passed with bi-partisan support in less than six weeks.

And there was a mandatory national gun buy-back. Some 700,000 firearms were collected and destroyed.

Australia's Ambassador to the U.S., Joe Hockey.
Credit Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade / Wikimedia Commons

About a year and a half ago, Australia’s government did a follow-up program of gun amnesty—where people could drop off unregistered weapons without providing any personal information. More than 26,000 firearms were collected.

The University of Sydney did a follow-up study of the original policy shift and found that Australia has not had a mass shooting since—defined as one in which five or more people were killed.

In the 18 years before the change in the law, there were 13 mass shootings in the country.

Australia’s ambassador to the United States Joe Hockey says that approach wouldn’t work, tweeting after the Las Vegas shootings that “guns are more pervasive and cultural here in USA. We all wish for change, but it’d be a miracle.”