You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Australian president stood up to gun lobby after 1996 shootings


Australian media, in the aftermath of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December, spent much time lauding former Aussie prime minister John Howard for his crackdown on automatic and semi-automatic weapons in the wake of the country’s own Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

In Port Arthur, 35 people lost their lives at the hands of one man carrying two semi-automatic rifles, and Howard wasted no time in banning the military-style hardware. Like the U.S., Australia has a strong pro-gun lobby, though it is much smaller than the NRA. Howard’s move
was seen as brave given that most of that lobby were in his own political party.

“Since Howard’s prompt and decisive action after the deaths of 35 people at the hands of one Tasmanian gunman, Australia has not had another massacre. I will repeat that: in 16 years there has not been a single massacre,” wrote columnist Jane Caro.

Many commentators also used the tragedy to highlight the U.S. infatuation with firearms.

In a country like Australia, which is prone to ape myriad aspects of U.S,. culture, the Second Amendment is something that still mystifies.

Most of Oz’s gun culture is focused in the outback, around the rural and farming communities, and handgun ownership in the city is still very rare.

Though Hollywood and videogames were briefly trotted out on TV and talkradio as perhaps inciting atrocities like Sandy Hook, more prevalent were dire predictions that this would not be the last such tragedy and — in a year that saw 20 children die barely six months after 12 people were gunned down at a movie theater in Aurora — it was an easy conclusion to reach.

Few put it more strongly than Sydney Morning
Herald commentator Mike Carlton.

“Sooner or later,” wrote Carlton, “some wild-eyed hillbilly in Sphincter, Ala., fantasizes that Obama is a commie Muslim bent on taking away his guns and liberty. Armed to the teeth, he travels to Washington to blaze away at the presidential motorcade, and the American agonizing over guns begins again. …”

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

  • Climate Mobilization

    Marshall Herskovitz: Why the Climate Crisis Needs Movie Marketing-Style Muscle

     I’ve lived inside the climate-communications conundrum for 20 years, working with scientists, academics and activists to find ways to convince Americans that something they couldn’t see or feel was nevertheless a looming catastrophe worth upending their lives to fight. Now the climate crisis is undeniable, and we are finally seeing the beginnings of concerted action. [...]

  • Renée Zellweger, Adam Driver Gain Oscar

    Telluride: Oscar Buzz Builds For Renée Zellweger, Adam Driver and 'The Two Popes'

    This year’s Telluride Film Festival began on Thursday with the Guest/Patron Brunch on a private estate about a 30-minute drive from the center of town. Eggs, bacon and fruit salad were being served as the sun was shining on Martin Scorsese, Adam Driver, Noah Baumbach, Laura Dern, Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Ken Burns, Ric Burns, [...]

  • Fernando Meirelles The Two Popes

    Telluride: Audience Laughs and Cries During 'The Two Popes' World Premiere

    Little did the audience at the world premiere of “The Two Popes” know that the papal two-hander is actually very funny. No, it’s not a comedy, but the jokes and ribbing between Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) and the future pope, Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), played well in the packed Chuck Jones’ Cinema, as did [...]

  • Renee Zwllweger in Judy

    Telluride: Renée Zellweger Will Return to the Oscars With 'Judy'

    The Oscars love actors playing alcoholic, drug-addicted singers. Last year, Rami Malek took home the big prize for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” beating out Bradley Cooper for his work as the fictional Jackson Maine in “A Star Is Born.” Over the years, we’ve seen Jamie Foxx win for “Ray,” Jeff Bridges [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content