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.

Popular on Variety

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. …”

More Voices

  • Sam Mendes Bong Joon Ho 1917

    Final Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win in the Major Categories?

    The 92nd Academy Awards are almost here… For films like “Joker” and “Marriage Story,” the journey to the Oscars began five months ago with their premieres in Venice. “1917” had the least amount of time on the campaign trail: The Sam Mendes war movie didn’t start screening until late November. In the end, however, it [...]

  • Harriet Movie BTS

    Academy Needs to Start Taking Chances With Noms; Rewards Will Follow (Column)

    Throughout its history, the Academy Awards has been subject to intense criticism for the issues it embraces — and ignores. This year’s uproar over the lack of diversity among nominations in the highest-profile awards categories is the latest example. This failure reflects a chronic dearth of opportunity at Hollywood’s top artistic and financial levels. The milestone nominations [...]

  • Baby Yoda The Mandolorian

    Media Giants Make Smaller Moves With an Eye Toward Future Gains in Streaming Era

    Maybe the empire can strike back. Or at least strike anew. Over the past few months, a number of developments have emerged for traditional media companies that indicate a spirit of reinvention and experimentation is spreading across the industry. There’s a new willingness to take a hard look at long-standing operations and make big and [...]

  • Olivia Wilde Booksmart BTS

    Olivia Wilde on Her Move From Acting to Directing With 'Booksmart'

    Olivia Wilde began acting in 2004 when she was 20 years old. It never occurred to her that she might also enjoy stepping behind the lens. “I always wanted to make movies and be a part of the moviemaking process,” she tells me. “I always assumed acting was the way in, because for many young [...]

  • Oscar Statue Oscars Placeholder

    Oscars 2020 Predictions: Who Will Get Nominated?

    The Oscar race is on. And it’s about to get a lot more intense when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announces the nominations for the 92nd Oscars on Jan. 13. Golden Globes shutout “The Irishman” is favored to earn several nods, as will “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” which went home [...]

  • Golden Globes Analysis Oscar Race

    Why Golden Globes Will Likely Have Little Effect on Oscar Nominations (Column)

    With the Globes now behind us and Oscar noms rapidly approaching on Jan. 13, what should we be paying attention to in Hollywood’s biggest film awards race? Surefire bets are Globe winners Renée Zellweger (“Judy”), who already has one Oscar, and Brad Pitt, who should garner his third acting nomination for his work in Quentin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content