Port Arthur’s legacy examined after 20 years

Today marks 20 years since 35 people were murdered and 23 wounded at Port Arthur in Tasmania, leading to a new attitude towards firearms.

University of Sydney Associate Professor Philip Alpers said the Port Arthur massacre resulted in a noticeable change of attitudes.

“It seems to me that law enforcement is taking gun possession much more seriously these days,” Ass. Prof. Alpers said.

“It’s resulted in a lot more prosecutions. Police in several states have set up targeted task forces.

“They’re having quite a success rate. Thousands of guns have been seized.”

Ass. Prof. Alpers said Australia did not have the world’s toughest gun laws.

“No, I don’t think Australia can claim to have the strictest gun laws in the world more than Singapore can, simply because they have the death penalty for guns,” he said.

“Australia has the most comprehensive and holistic suite of gun laws, and they’re the most likely to be effective of all the gun countries in the world.

“There are a dozen countries, probably more, that claim to have the toughest gun control laws in the world.”

At Port Arthur’s 20th anniversary memorial service today, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said former Prime Minister John Howard had demonstrated a leadership that set a benchmark for the whole world.

“John Howard acted decisively with support from all the parliamentary colleagues, state territory leaders. Out of the tragedy here at Port Arthur was written a new chapter in our national story,” he said.

“It showed our federation and its leaders at their best, acting in solidarity to make Australia a safer nation. The ripple in the pond from the loss of just one life is profound. The effect of so many lives lost has sent shock waves throughout this nation.”

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said the changes made after the massacre had been positive.

“We remain committed in Tasmanian Government, that is with our counterparts and the Federal Government, to ensure that we do whatever we can to make our communities as safe as they can be. And that includes some of the world’s toughest gun laws,” Mr Hodgman said.

WA Opposition Leader Mark McGowan said the nation came together after the tragedy 20 years ago.

“We saw the best of Australia in the aftermath of Port Arthur,” Mr McGowan said.

“It doesn’t matter if Mr Turnbull’s in charge or I’m in charge. We have the same view of the world to the safety of our fellow Australians.”