Asia Pacific

Australia marks 25 years since worst mass shooting

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SYDNEY, April 28 (Reuters) - Australia marked the 25th anniversary of the country's worst mass shooting on Wednesday in which a lone gunman killed 35 people and forced authorities to implement some of the world's toughest gun laws.

Martin Bryant went on a shooting spree on April 28, 1996 at a cafe and tourist site at the former colonial prison of Port Arthur, in the island state of Tasmania, with military-style weapons he had bought without background checks.

Within two weeks of the massacre, the then conservative prime minister John Howard had brokered a National Firearms Agreement law limiting licensing and ownership controls of guns.

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Australia banned all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns and thousands of unlicensed firearms were surrendered under a gun amnesty.

"We took hundreds of thousands of guns out of the community and the evidence since ... is that there have been no mass shootings since then, and the country is a much safer place," Howard told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Wednesday.

The firearms law is held up by many abroad as an example of the need for tighter gun controls in the United States, which has seen a surge in mass shootings in 2021.

U.S. recorded 163 mass shooting events this year as of Monday, up from 94 over the same period in the prior year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. read more

Australia has had no mass shootings since 1996.

Total deaths from firearms were 521 in the country in 1996. In 2019, with the population up from about 18 million to 25 million, Australia had 219 deaths, official data showed.

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Reporting by Renju Jose; Editing by Michael Perry

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