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How Australia Passed Gun Control

The Port Arthur Massacre and Beyond

An Australian kangaroo shooter with his rifle on land outside of Canberra, April 2013. David Gray / Reuters

On April 28, 1996, Carolyn Loughton was enjoying lunch with her 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, at the Broad Arrow Café near the waterfront in Australia’s historic Port Arthur. They were at their table when Martin Bryant, a psychologically disturbed man, entered the restaurant and began shooting. Carolyn threw herself on top of her daughter and was shot in the back. Carolyn survived her injury, but Sarah, who was shot in the head, did not. So began a nine-hour killing spree that left 35 dead and 23 wounded, the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history. Bryant’s weapons, a semiautomatic Colt AR-15 and a .308 FN rifle, had been legally purchased—despite the fact that Bryant had qualified for a disability pension on psychiatric grounds.

Twelve days after the Port Arthur attack, the public outcry spurred Australia’s then Prime Minister John Howard to enact a sweeping package of gun reforms. The reforms prohibited

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