Australian gun deaths slashed since 1996

File photo Source: AAP

Gun deaths across Australia have fallen dramatically in the 20 years since the Port Arthur massacre and ensuing firearm reforms, a new report has found.

Australian firearm deaths have fallen rapidly in the past two decades, and not a single mass shooting has occurred since the Port Arthur massacre, according to a new study.

There were 104 people killed and at least 52 wounded in 13 Australian mass shootings between 1979 and 1996, the study reports.

Its authors, including University of Sydney Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman, found not a single mass shooting death in the ensuing 20 years (defined as involving five or more victims, not including the perpetrator).

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) today, also found an accelerated decline in other gun homicides and suicides.

The Australian government clamped down hard on gun laws in 1996, after lone gunman Martin Bryant used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 23 others in southern Tasmania.

Rapid-fire long gun sales were banned and many of such weapons already in private ownership were surrendered or seized, before being melted down.

The high-profile blitz was backed up by a voluntary handgun buyback, with an estimated one million firearms handed in to authorities.

Australia's hardline gun laws have clearly coincided with an elimination of mass killings with firearms, with a substantial reduction in exposure to large-capacity ammunition magazines likely to be a key factor, the study contended.

"The laws were introduced to reduce the likelihood of massacres and that's worked extremely well," study co-author Simon Chapman told AAP.

The report highlighted a surge in semiautomatic assault-style rifles across the US in the past decade, over which time the average number of mass shooting victims also soared.

Professor Chapman said the findings should also send a message to those seeking to water down Australia's gun controls.

But Samara McPhedran, a Griffith University senior researcher and chair of Women in Shooting and Hunting (WiSH), argued it was virtually impossible to conduct reliable analysis of mass shootings.

"Because they've been so historically infrequent, we actually can't draw any conclusions about whether or not our laws have prevented such events," Dr McPhedran told AAP.

But Roland Browne, the vice president of Gun Control Australia, rejected this argument, saying the results were undeniable proof the country's firearm reforms were working.

Between 1979 and 1996, there were 13 fatal mass shootings (five or more victims, not including perpetrator). Since 1996 when the Howard government introduced tougher gun control laws there have been no such shootings.

The rate of homicides due to firearms has also decreased.

Source AAP, SBS News

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