'Gun laws slipping': WA massacre puts spotlight on Aust gun control

The Margaret River massacre that left seven dead has sparked a debate surrounding guns in Australia, with some suggesting the laws have been “watered down” for farmers.

The bodies of three adults and four children were found at an Osmington property, in Western Australia’s southwest, on Friday.

The family had all been shot by firearms licensed to grandfather Peter Miles, who was among the dead.

On Sunday, West Australian Premier Mark McGowan was questioned about “nasty comments” since made overseas, including from the US, that question whether Australia still remains an example of “excellent” gun control after the mass shooting.

The Margaret River massacre that left seven dead has sparked a debate surrounding Australia’s gun laws. Photo: AAP

“We have some of the tightest gun laws in the world and I think we’re an example to the rest of the world that you need to have very careful and strict controls when it comes to gun ownership and gun usage,” Mr McGowan replied.

“In this case, it appears, all of the firearms involved were licensed and there was the appropriate management of those firearms as best you can.

“It was a farming property. In some ways there’s not much else that I can see from the outside that could have been done.”

On Monday, the Chairman of Gun Control Australia, Sam Lee, told Sunrise she had never been more concerned about the state of the country’s gun laws.

“This massacre was brutal and tremendously sad. Guns are on the rise and the gun lobby, NRA style, are on the increase,” she said.

“We just don’t know who is going to commit [a massacre] so we need to focus on regulating firearms.

“We really need to change the conversation here in Australia in order to protect our safety and that is to stop talking about our good gun laws and start talking about how our gun laws are slipping away.”

The bodies of three adults and four children were found at an Osmington property. Photo: AAP
The Chairman of Gun Control Australia, Sam Lee, told Sunrise she had never been more concerned about the state of the country’s gun laws. Photo: Sunrise

But Senator Pauline Hanson rejected the claims the gun laws had been “watered down”.

“We have the toughest gun laws in the world and every person in Australia that has a gun has to have a gun licence,” she told Sunrise.

“The gun laws are tight and I’ve got no problem with them in Australia. If he truly wanted to kill his family he would have done it one way or another.”

On Sunday, WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said it was “not unusual” for Mr Miles to have three weapons attached to his one firearm licence at the rural address.

“I’ve not got any additional information that would cause me particular concern about the gun licensing arrangements in this particular matter,” Mr Dawson said.

An opinion piece by Siraj Hashmi, published in the Washington Examiner on Friday, notes that Australia is often touted by US gun control advocates as “the shining role model” to reduce mass shootings since its 1996 gun buyback program.

Grandfather Peter Miles and his wife, Cynda, were among the seven dead and the firearms found on the property were licensed to Mr Miles. Source: 7 News

But it also cites the 2014 Lindt cafe siege in Sydney, where hostages were held at gunpoint and two died.

“The point is this: while some data suggest that super-strict gun control has cut down on gun violence and gun-related deaths in some cases, there’s still no guarantee that you’re safe,” Hashmi writes.

The Osmington incident was Australia’s worst mass shooting since Tasmania’s Port Arthur massacre in 1996, where lone gunman Martin Bryant killed 35 people.

Recent US mass shootings to make global headlines include the deaths of 17 people at a Florida high school in February, 58 people on the Las Vegas Strip in October 2017 and 49 people at an Orlando gay nightclub in 2016.

Stephen Paddock, the gunman in last year’s massacre, was able to purchase more than 30 guns in one year.