IN AN article entitled Australia: There Will be Blood, the National Rifle Association in the US has launched an attack on Australia's gun laws in the latest edition of its most militant gun rights publication, America's First Freedom.
The article claims there is a "growing consensus" in Australia that the gun buyback and ban on semi-automatic weapons introduced after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 had failed to make the nation safer.
"The Australian people paid a massive price in liberty. Their reward? At best, an unexamined resolution that things were somehow better now," says the article.
"For those who became victims, or who simply examined the situation with open eyes, it was rather clear that they were not. Gun rights were, for all practical purposes, gone forever."
The article warns that US President Barack Obama might support Australian-style gun reforms.
"This is the gun-control regime that our president applauds for its decisive resolve. It robbed Australians of their right to self-defence and empowered criminals, all without delivering the promised reduction in violent crime," it says.
"Australia's gun confiscation is indeed a lesson to America: It is a sign of what is to come if we hold our rights lightly."
Australia's gun laws – particularly those introduced by the Howard government after the Port Arthur massacre – have become a source of fascination in the US and are regularly raised in the ongoing debate over gun violence there.
The NRA's most recent attack on Australian gun laws appears to have been prompted by Mr Obama's raising of their success in an interview he did with Marc Maron?, a comedian with a popular podcast in the US, after the massacre in South Carolina last month.
Referring to Australia's response to the Port Arthur massacre, Mr Obama told Mr Maron: "It was just so shocking the entire country said, 'Well, we're going to completely change our gun laws', and they did. And it hasn't happened since."
Supporters of gun control often cite Australia's laws as evidence that government restrictions on gun ownership can save lives; those opposing gun restrictions raise the laws as an example of Orwellian big-government over-reach.
As evidence of the consensus that Australia's gun laws have failed, the NRA cites a single article published by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2005.
That story quotes the director of the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Don Weatherburn, as saying there was not enough evidence to attribute a fall in crime in the 10 years after the introduction of the gun laws to the new restrictions.
"There has been a drop in firearm-related crime, particularly in homicide, but it began long before the new laws and has continued on afterwards. I don't think anyone really understands why. A lot of people assume that the tougher laws did it, but I would need more specific, convincing evidence," he said at the time, noting that a reduction in the availability of heroin had led to lower usage and, in turn, a drop in armed robberies.
Public health research by Professor Simon Chapman has since found that while the rate of gun-related homicide was reducing by 3 per cent a year before the new laws, the pace of the decrease accelerated to 7 per cent a year afterwards.
The US now has a gun homicide rate 370 times that of Australia's, Mr Chapman writes.