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Massacre helped Australia avoid US gun culture: Howard

Howard reacts to Monday's shooting spree at the US Virginia Tech University which left 33 people dead.

world Updated: Apr 17, 2007 11:04 IST

Strict gun controls introduced after one of the world's worst massacres by a lone gunman helped Australia avoid a US-style "gun culture", said Prime Minister John Howard on Tuesday.

Howard, who ordered the controls after gunman Martin Bryant killed 35 people in a rampage through Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1996, was reacting to Monday's shooting spree at the US Virginia Tech University which left 33 people dead.

"We had a terrible incident at Port Arthur. But it is the case that 11 years ago we took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country," he said.

Howard told reporters, however, that "you can never guarantee these things won't happen again in our country."
He extended his sympathies to the families of those killed and wounded in the shooting in the United States, saying universities and schools should be "a sanctuary of learning, friendship and social interchange".

After the Port Arthur massacre on April 28, 1996, the introduction of stricter gun laws saw some 500,000 weapons, including semi-automatics, handed over to officials to be destroyed.

While the latest US shooting has again revived debate about what role easy access to guns plays in crime, Howard indicated on the 10th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre last year that he had no doubts.

"Gun-related deaths, both murders and otherwise, have fallen sharply since 1996," he said. "I think that's got something to do with the gun laws."

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