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."