We might feel that we are a world away from the gun-related massacres in the United States of America, however Australians are starting to feel the impact of the senseless killing of innocent civilians.
Following the most recent massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where 17 students and teachers were killed, there has been an outcry of emotion on social media about gun laws in the US.
Australians such as Bendigo student Kim Stanway are finding it increasingly hard to sit by and watch the same story keep unfolding.
Kim is persuaded to try and make a difference.
“It really hit me because you read about it in Australia and you feel like you can’t do anything, but when the victims were people my age, it hit me harder than the other incidents,” Miss Stanway said.
“I want to try do something about it, I’m not sure how much of a difference I can make, but I know there are now a lot of people in the US talking about their country’s gun laws.”
Miss Stanway would not like to see Australia adopt a similar gun culture to the US, rather America learn from our laws and how they saved lives.
“The more voices, the bigger difference there will be, I just hope something good comes out of all of this,” Miss Stanway said.
“It’s time for people in the US to wake up as people aren’t happy with what’s happening and if they aren’t careful innocent people will keep dying.
“They need to look at themselves and see how much more they can take before they do something about it.”
Hartley’s Hunting and Fishing owner Lindsay Hamley said Australian gun laws were significantly tougher than in the US.
“The weapons available in Australia are a lot different than what’s accessible in the US,” Mr Hamley said.
“No civilian has access to semi-automatic high powered military style weapons, which is what is available in the US and basically you can just about see in every massacre they’re using these types of guns.
“After the Port Arthur massacre there was a major shake-up of Australian gun laws.’’
The Port Arthur massacre occurred in Tasmania in 1996, when 35 people were killed and 23 wounded when Martin Bryant used a high powered semi-automatic weapon to commit one the worst mass shootings in Australian history.
Under the National Firearms Agreement, introduced to Australia in 1996 and only 12 days after the Port Arthur massacre, there were strict restrictions placed on fully automatic, semi-automatic weapons and changes to licensing laws.
“The likelihood of having a massacre of the same magnitude as Port Arthur, involving semi-automatic weapons is low, there has really been none since,” Mr Hamley said.
“The only way to get semi-automatic military style weapons is illegally through the black market.”
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission estimated in 2016 there were approximately 260,000 illegal firearms within the Australian black market.
ACIC also estimated in the same year there were 2.89 million legally registered firearms in Australia, compared to approximately 2.75 million previously in 2011, a 9.3 per cent increase.
What is a firearm?
Source: Victoria Police
The NFA classifies firearms into different categories, and each state and territory sets their own regulations and laws.
A spokesperson for Victoria Police said compliance and enforcement activities were undertaken to ensure those with firearm licences comply with conditions.
“Anyone caught breaching the condition of their licences or failing in their obligation can expect to have their authority cancelled and to be charged or issued with penalty notices,” the spokesperson said.
Mr Hamley could not see why people wanted to own semi-automatic military weapons and there was not a purpose for them in Australia.
“Basically in the US there’s a necessity to have a high-powered weapon, take these out of the equation and I believe there will be fewer massacres than what there is now,” Mr Hamley said.
“The biggest problems is most people have an affinity with firearms, focusing on pure firepower, the need to be able to shoot bullets at a rapid rate.
“It’s the type of guns they have access to over in the US is the major problem.
“The only way the US can stop this is by toughening up guns laws and taking away the availability of semi-automatic military weapons.”
In the US in the past, universities, schools, nightclubs and public mass gathering events have been the target of the individuals who commit shootings.
La Trobe University Bendigo head of campus Robert Stephenson said his concern about gun laws in the US were for his friends and colleagues that worked on university campuses throughout the country.
“It must be an incredibly difficult environment to work in, having that threat,” Mr Stephenson said.
“As far as people visiting the US and students who want to travel, that threat is not how we sometimes perceive it, we take a carefully curated feed of the news we pay attention to.
“The instances of things happening in the US is still relatively small, however they can be catastrophic for the people who are involved in them.”
It really hit me because you read about it in Australia and you feel like you can’t do anything, but when it was people my age it hit me more harder than the other incidents.Kim Stanway