Australia knows all about gun law reform. The country has not experienced a mass shooting since the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, and it credits stricter gun control laws enacted after that incident for its dramatic drop in gun violence.
Now, in the wake of the attack in Las Vegas, Australia has extended a helping hand to America, which has endured more than 270 mass shootings this year.
Speaking to Australia’s Channel 9 TV station on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country would be more than happy to lend its expertise in this area to the U.S.
“What Australia can do is share our experience after the mass killing in Port Arthur back in the late 1990s, when 35 people were killed by a lone gunman,” said Bishop, per The Washington Post. “You will recall that [then-Prime Minister] John Howard then introduced national gun laws, which banned automatic and semiautomatic weapons and included a national buyback scheme. We have had this experience. We acted with a legislative response.”
Just last week, Australia concluded a three-month national gun amnesty, in which people could surrender their unregistered, illegal or unwanted firearms to local authorities without fear of penalty or prosecution. More than 26,000 firearms were turned in, HuffPost Australia reported.
While gun violence hasn’t disappeared from Australia, the decline in firearm-related deaths since the 1990s has been considerable. Between 1995 and 2006, gun-related homicides and suicides dropped by 59 percent and 65 percent respectively, according to a 2010 study.
Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten said he was grateful for his country’s tough gun restrictions.
“Thank God for our gun laws and heaven help anyone who wants to weaken these gun laws because they will have to come through me and the Labor Party,” Shorten told the Sydney Morning Herald. “There [are] a lot of very good things about America, but we don’t want their gun laws.”
After Sunday’s mass shooting, some famous faces took to social media to make the case for gun control, using Australia as a case study.
Critics argue that Australian-style gun reform won’t work in the U.S. because of the high rates of gun ownership and America’s gun laws ― the Second Amendment in particular. Advocates of the idea, however, say the U.S. could learn a great deal from the Australian model.
“What we can offer is our experience,” Bishop said. “But at the end of the day it’s going to be up to the United States legislators and lawmakers, and the United States public, to change the laws to ensure this type of incident doesn’t happen again.”