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Could the US learn from Australia's gun-control laws?

As the US debates its gun laws in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting, some Australians are urging the US to consider modeling its laws after Australia's.

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In this file photo from 1997, piles of guns in Australia are moved after a landmark law that resulted from a mass shooting. Now, Australians are saying the US could learn their lesson.

Jerry Galea/AP/File

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Almost two weeks after a shooting spree stunned Australia in 1996, leaving 35 people dead at the Port Arthur tourist spot in Tasmania, the government issued sweeping reforms of the country’s gun laws.
 
There hasn’t been a mass shooting since.
 
Now, after the recent shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, Australia’s National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which saw hundreds of thousands of automatic and semiautomatic weapons bought back then destroyed, is being examined as a possible example for the United States, to mixed reaction in Australia.

Australians have been following the Connecticut tragedy closely, and many say the US solution lies in following Australia’s path, or at least reforming current laws. But a small but vocal number of Australia’s gun supporters are urging caution.

Just 12 days after the 1996 shooting in Port Arthur, then-Prime Minister John Howard – a conservative who had just been elected with the help of gun owners – pushed through not only new gun control laws, but also the most ambitious gun buyback program Australia had ever seen. Some 650,000 automatic and semiautomatic rifles were handed in and destroyed under the program.
 
Though gun-related deaths did not suddenly end in Australia, gun-related homicides dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006, with no corresponding increase in non-firearm-related homicides. Suicides by gun plummeted by 65 percent, and robberies at gunpoint also dropped significantly. Many said there was a close correlation between the sharp declines and the buyback program.

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