Why don't Australians have guns?

Automatic firearms ban after massacre: How Australia came to its senses

Shots in Tasmania - hundreds, thousands. They reverberate to this day. If there is one moment in Australia's recent history that has fundamentally changed the country - it was this hour of terror. On a Sunday afternoon in April 1996, Martin Bryant walked into a cafe in Port Arthur. With a semi-automatic rifle, he shoots twelve people in 15 seconds. People flee, but Bryant has no mercy on them either. A mother pleads for the lives of her two little girls. Bryant just grins and pulls the trigger. 35 people died that day - the largest massacre in modern Australia.

Only months later, and such an act would hardly have been possible. In record time, Australia had passed laws banning the import and possession of automatic weapons. The government bought back the weapons. The protest was loud at first and came from the usual corners: far-right nationalists, shooting clubs, farmers. There were warnings that Prime Minister John Howard had to wear a bulletproof vest for a while.

Fears were fueled: in the event of an invasion by "Chinese" and "Muslims" one could no longer defend house and yard. "Since I was a teenager, I've slept next to my bed with my semi-automatic rifle loaded," said excavator operator Peter. He wanted to be ready when "the hordes from completely overcrowded Indonesia" came.

Crocodile Dundee and Politics

But the Australians, who love to celebrate the myth of being a rebellious, anti-authoritarian people of pioneers in the style of Crocodile Dundee, then followed what the politicians told them to be. In this case, rightly so. The program was a complete success. Tons of weapons ended up in the furnace.

Since then, Australia has been considered one of the safest countries in the world for the use of firearms. Anyone who wants to buy a rifle - single shot, small magazine - must have compelling reasons. Working in agriculture is one thing, membership in a rifle club is another. Fear of invasion does not apply. After many tests and weeks of waiting, gun owners have to adhere to strict regulations. The police conduct random checks and the license is checked regularly.

There has been no more mass shooting in Australia in 22 years. The number of crimes involving firearms is falling. In 2014, the homicide rate fell to less than one person in 100,000 - one-fifth in the United States.

Sagittarians have long since got used to the new conditions. And the "Chinese" and "Muslims" still haven't invaded Australia. But that doesn't stop Peter from sleeping with the rifle next to the bed. However, it's a shotgun today. With two cartridges. (Urs Wältin from Canberra, February 24th, 2018)