Howard slams erosion of gun laws

09 Sep, 2015 08:46 AM
Andrew Denton interviews former prime minister John Howard at a lunch for the Gun Control Australia lobby group.
I'm critical of any winding back of the laws.
Andrew Denton interviews former prime minister John Howard at a lunch for the Gun Control Australia lobby group.

FORMER prime minister John Howard has criticised the creeping erosion of the gun control laws his government implemented after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

Mr Howard said he was "disturbed" by attempts to dilute the laws, including the move by four states to wind back the mandatory 28 days "cooling off" period between applying for and buying a gun.

"I don't think it benefits anybody," he said. "I'm critical of any winding back of the laws."

Mr Howard made the comments at an event hosted by lobby group Gun Control Australia, where he was interviewed by journalist Andrew Denton.

The former Liberal leader played down concerns about the rise of pro-gun forces within politics, including the Shooters and Fishers party, pointing to the widespread bipartisan support for ongoing gun control.

"The vast bulk of Australians have the same view on this issue. My sense is that this is something the Australian public thinks we got right."

Mr Howard also reflected on his memories of watching the unfolding tragedy at Port Arthur on April 28, 1996, where Martin Bryant murdered 35 people and wounded 23.

"Like everybody else, I was just stunned. I pretty quickly felt I had to do something."

In a move that has significantly defined his legacy as prime minister, Mr Howard dramatically restricted Australia's gun ownership laws and, with the support of the states, banned semi-automatic rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and pump-action shotguns.

His government also implemented a national buyback scheme that saw 659,940 firearms destroyed.

In the past 25 years, more than a million guns have been removed from the Australian community as a result of buybacks, amnesties and seizures.

Mr Howard said the decision to pursue strict gun control was an "exercise in common sense" and one which he had been prepared to take to a referendum if the states had withheld their support.

"I've no doubt that referendum would have been carried. It would have been carried overwhelmingly," he said.

"You have seen a demonstrable dividend out of these laws. The figures are undeniable that gun-related deaths have fallen."

Most notably, Australia has not had a single mass shooting since the laws were enacted.

He also pointed to the 80 per cent decline in the firearm suicides rate as one of the defining achievements of the laws.

Among the attendees were survivors and family members of victims of the Port Arthur massacre, including Walter Mikac, whose wife Nanette and daughters Alannah, 6, and Madeline, 3, were among those killed by Martin Bryant.

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart," Mr Mikac said. "There are people who are alive because of the result of those changes."

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9/09/2015 2:05:14 PM

While I do support many aspects of Howard's firearms laws, it seems totally ludicrous that if I already own firearms, I should need a 28 day cooling off period when purchasing another, also, when trading in, why can't I walk into the shop with my trade, and back out with my replacement? Changing the rules for these 2 situations would streamline the whole show, and reduce untold paperwork without compromising anybody's safety.
9/09/2015 3:47:40 PM

I agree Daw. Problem is there's an automatic assumption that owners of firearms are not to be trusted, regardless that anyone with a licence has to abide by the strictest code of conduct lest you end up branded a criminal, and as always , none of the bad guys worry about the paperwork.
Itz Me
9/09/2015 3:53:54 PM

Been to western parts of Sydney lately Mr Howard ? You can see your gun laws in action there every day and night. A city of armed criminals, against disarmed citizens. Gun control was always designed just for the honest people. Conned again Australia.
9/09/2015 4:14:02 PM

Makka, how often do you buy a new firearm?
9/09/2015 4:41:18 PM

Gee, if Johnny doesn't settle down a bit, he's going to blow a gasket.....
9/09/2015 4:44:55 PM

The laws have not been wound back, they have been tightened. The NFA was a costly exercise that achieved nothing but the illusion of more safety. Repeal the NFA and abolish the Registry. There should be two categories. A Longarms B firearms under 75cm Canada and New Zealand got rid of their registries because they were such costly failures.
9/09/2015 5:28:00 PM

John Howard was one of the worst Pms we ever had . He did untold damage to the farmers. Never seen a Liberal that liked farmers . This lot we got now are not any better . Ivan CCQ
9/09/2015 5:44:02 PM

John Howard is such a liar. There has been no erosion of his useless gun laws. He says that his gun laws have prevented mass Shootings, what do you call the hunt family murders that happened last year? Also how come you can't explain how New Zealand has been free of mass shootings without our gun laws since 1997.
9/09/2015 6:16:53 PM

'...referendum ...... would have been carried overwhelmingly," Yep, just like the one that turfed you and your government out of office.... .... and perhaps there should be a referendum to immediately cease taxpayer funded pensions for ex politicians. Now that would be a winner for the taxpayer.
9/09/2015 9:00:50 PM

It would be good if Mr Howard would 'exercise common sense' and support Makka's view, particularly regarding a replacement for an ineffective gun. What does a cooling off period achieve when a person already is licenced and has already access to firearms? This situation is quite different to a first time purchase by either the inexperienced and/or one without an impeccable record.
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