Wikipedia’s Gun politics in Australia article explains how determined political leadership can change a national culture from gun tyranny to freedom — and, in our case, safer 1st graders and their teachers.
The terminology is instructive, accurate, and worth adopting in the current debate: people who want to own weapons like those used in Newtown are “shooters.” Everyone else is “the public.”
The Port Arthur massacre and its consequences
The Port Arthur massacre in 1996 transformed gun control legislation in Australia. Thirty five people were killed and 21 wounded when a man with a history of violent and erratic behaviour beginning in early childhood opened fire on shop owners and tourists with two military style semi-automatic rifles. Six weeks after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland, this mass killing at the notorious former convict prison at Port Arthur horrified the Australian public and had powerful political consequences.
The Port Arthur perpetrator said he bought his firearms from a gun dealer without holding the required firearms licence.
Prime Minister John Howard, then newly elected, immediately took the gun law proposals developed from the report of the 1988 National Committee on Violence and forced the states to adopt them under a National Firearms Agreement. This was necessary because the Australian Constitution does not give the Commonwealth power to enact gun laws. The proposals included a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a tightly restrictive system of licensing and ownership controls.
Some discussion of measures to allow owners to undertake modifications to reduce the capacity of magazine-fed shotguns (“crimping”) occurred, but the government refused to permit this.
Surveys showed up to 85% of Australians supported gun control,but some farmers and sporting shooters strongly opposed the new laws.
The government planned a series of public meetings to explain the proposed changes. In the first meeting, on the advice of his security team, Howard wore a bullet-resistant vest, which was visible under his jacket. Some shooters were critical of this.
Some shooters applied to join the Liberal Party of Australia in an attempt to influence the government, but the Liberal Party barred them from membership. A court action by 500 shooters seeking admission to membership eventually failed in the Supreme Court of South Australia.
Because the Australian Constitution prevents the taking of property without just compensation the federal government introduced the Medicare Levy Amendment Act 1996 to raise the predicted cost of A$500 million through a one-off increase in the Medicare levy. The gun buy-back scheme started on 1 October 1996 and concluded on 30 September 1997. The buyback purchased and destroyed more than 631,000 firearms, mostly semi-auto .22 rimfires, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns. Only Victoria provided a breakdown of types destroyed, and in that state less than 3% were military style semi-automatic rifles.