Australia’s prime minister said the country’s fierce gun control laws — enacted after a devastating mass shooting in the 1990s — has led to significantly “less tragedy” compared to the ongoing spate of gun violence in America.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made the comments in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday when asked what it was like to view the U.S. epidemic of gun violence through an outside lens. President Joe Biden and lawmakers nationwide have struggled to curb the spate of mass shootings after the recent attacks, including the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the racially motivated shooting that left 10 dead at a Buffalo supermarket.
“Every one of these tragedies is heartbreaking, and every one of these tragedies keeps reinforcing, as an outsider, the fortunate position Australia’s in of having these strong gun controls,” Albanese said.
(The U.S. enacted a new firearm bill in June, but it fell far short of the sweeping gun control proposals pushed by some Democrats.)
Australia has only had three mass shootings since a massacre in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996. During that event, a gunman killed 35 people and wounded 28 others with a semi-automatic weapon he bought from an ad in the newspaper. Twenty of those people were killed in just a minute and 15 seconds.
The country responded with dramatic, bipartisan gun reform, introducing a gun buyback scheme that saw 700,000 guns removed from the community and destroyed. New laws imposed severe limits on legal ownership of firearms and the country now has a permanent gun amnesty program for unregistered weapons.
“I knew that I had to use the authority of my office to curb the possession and use of the type of weapons that killed 35 innocent people,” then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard said of the decision in a 2013 op-ed for the New York Times. “I also knew it wouldn’t be easy.”
In comparison, America has seen 385 mass shootings so far in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Albanese went on to say that for Australians, fewer guns has led to dramatic drops in gun crime and an increase in public safety.
“I’d just say that people should look at our experience,” the prime minister said. “It’s up to the United States as a sovereign nation what direction it takes, of course. But the truth is, that Australia’s experience shows that less guns, particularly less automatic weapons, the less crime occurs and the less tragedy occurs.”