The Darwin mass shooting which left four men dead has prompted a wave of criticism in the US over Australia’s regularly-praised gun laws.
While stringent laws in the shape of the National Firearms Agreement were implemented in the wake of 1996’s Port Arthur massacre, which left 35 people dead, Tuesday’s shooting has seen social media users, pro-firearms groups and even the media in the US ridicule the nation.
Firearms Owners United, a vocal pro-gun website in the US, picked apart Australia’s gun laws in the wake of the shooting, allegedly carried out by 45-year-old Ben Hoffmann, branding them a “failure”.
“Australia’s “gold standard gun laws” fail again,” the headline on a blog post read.
The post suggested guns were readily available to anyone who wished to obtain one across the country.
“All this has proven yet again is that illegal firearms are accessible to anyone in Australia who wants one, mass killings will continue to happen and police can’t protect you from these incidents,” it said.
However, reputable US publication The New York Times were also quick to cast doubt on the effectiveness of Australia’s gun laws, which they claim have wavered in recent years despite support.
“Polls show more than 90 per cent support in Australia for the two-decade-old gun restrictions,” journalist Damien Cave writes.
“But the country has also been gradually loosening its laws in recent years, and gun sales are increasing.
“Those who own guns, own more guns — in some cases, 100 or more. Sales of semiautomatic handguns, which are not as regulated as rifles, have skyrocketed.”
According to gunpolicy.org, the number of privately owned firearms in 2016 was at an all time high since the Port Arthur Massacre, and just 50,000 less than before the deadly shooting at 3,150,000 firearms.
Social media ridicule
Social media was awash with criticism of Australia’s gun laws from across the Pacific.
I thought Australia was the poster boy for gun control because no one has guns and shootings never happen there— Jeffy A.K.A Jeffy (@jeffyv2) June 5, 2019
“I thought Australia was the poster boy for gun control because no one has guns and shootings never happen there,” none Twitter user queried.
Another claimed the Darwin shooting showed how “useless” gun laws had become.
Other gun lobbyist groups chimed in, with Gun Owners of CA saying “one of the most gun controlled country in the world couldn’t stop a deranged killer because his victims were defenseless.”
Australia, one of the most gun controlled country in the world couldn’t stop a deranged killer because his victims were defenseless. The 2A allows us to defend ourselves. Guns save lives, criminals take lives. The answer is crime control, not gun control. https://t.co/YuTRUT6CAh— Gun Owners of CA (@GunOwnersCA) June 4, 2019
The #Darwin #Australia shooting shows how useless gun control laws are. If a convicted felon out on parole while wearing an ankle bracelet can find a gun in a country with some of the absolute worst laws in the world, then anyone can find a gun.— Jeff H (@politicswarblog) June 4, 2019
Australian gun laws defended
However, in the wake of New Zealand’s Christchurch massacre in March which killed 51 people, Tim Fischer, who was deputy prime minister and Nationals leader when the new gun laws were introduced, argued Australia was a safer place as a result of the gun laws, despite initial resistance.
He recalls an effigy of himself set alight outside a public hall in Queensland as he and the cabinet took their policy around the country.
"If you count 10 or more victims as a gun massacre, we had several before 1996, we've had zero since," he told AAP.
"The US has several every month of every year of the 21st century."
He did however warn that Australians must not become complacent, and must guard against any attempts to wind back the gun laws.
Associate Professor Philip Alpers, the director of GunPolicy.org at the University of Sydney’s school of public health, told news.com.au criticism of Australia’s gun laws was unjust.
He said the majority of fire arms seized by police had been obtained prior to the new gun laws and hadn’t been returned in the buy back scheme introduced.
He told the publication that there was about 250,000 guns a year being imported into Australia before 1996 and that authorities were still working to eradicate the weapons.
“Authorities have been trying to mop this up for 23 years by destroying over a million firearms since 1996 but there’s still a long way to go,” he said.
But he said the firearms agreement has reduced the chance of Australians being killed by a gun by 50 per cent and slammed suggestion the gun laws were ineffective.
“You may as well say you should have no laws against drink-driving because people drink-drive, or against murder because people murder,” he said.
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