By Mick Krever, CNN
In many countries, a mass-murder involving guns leads to a single thing: Stringent new laws limiting access to weapons.
A string of mass killings in the United States, including the murder of 20 children in Connecticut last December, sparked a new push for gun limitations from President Obama.
Australia had its own experience with a mass killing, in Tasmania, in 1996. A lone gunman killed 35 people in what came to be known as the Port Arthur Massacre.
The prime minister at the time, John Howard, explained how he dealt with the aftermath to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday.
“It was because that massacre was so terrible,” he said, “I was able to use the authority I had as a newly elected prime minister with a big majority to force the states that had the legal control over automatic and semi-automatic weapons to introduce a national ban.”
Howard was a conservative prime minister; nonetheless, he faced a large opposition, particularly in rural states. But he was able to force through the legislation by threatening to take the issue to the nation through a referendum, which he believes would have passed.
He was cautious to compare his country’s experience to America’s.
“I don't come here with any lectures,” he said. “We don't have constitutional guarantees in relation to these things,” and Australia started with a much lower gun death rate.
“However,” Howard added, “that doesn't alter the fact that our murder rate using guns has fallen and there's not much doubt in my mind that it's the availability of guns that causes such a high rate of murder using weapons.”