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Australian president stood up to gun lobby after 1996 shootings

SYDNEY

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.

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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. …”

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