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.
A paper for the American Law and Economics Review by Andrew Leigh of the Australian National University and Christine Neill of the Wilfrid Laurier University reports that the buyback led to a drop in the ﬁrearm suicide rates of almost 80 percent, "with no significant eﬀect on non-ﬁrearm death rates. The eﬀect on ﬁrearm homicides is of similar magnitude but is less precise.”
Perhaps the most convincing statistic for many, though, is that in the decade before the Port Arthur massacre, there were 11 mass shootings in the country. Since the new law, there hasn’t been one shooting spree.
In the wake of the shooting, polls indicated that up to 85 percent of Australians supported the measures taken by the government.