Right: Australia has always had a large population of recreational shooters. This love of guns and hunting has spawned an industry, as illustrated by the many gun-related magazines on the local market.
Despite the disputed figures, it seems probable that the gun buyback that followed the Port Arthur massacre and the accompanying restrictions placed on gun ownership have increased the safety of the Australian community.
It is also the case that the number of guns owned in Australia has grown. Though this is in part a consequence of population growth and does not reflect an increase in guns owned per capita, it does indicate that there are now many more guns available within the general community than was the case immediately after the gun buyback. This would seem to indicate that the incidence of gun-related deaths and injuries is likely to increase.
What seems to lie beneath this increase in gun numbers is a shift in popular attitudes toward gun ownership. The increase in gun club membership seems to reflect the same trend. It may be that as nearly a generation has now passed since the Port Arthur massacre the dangers of unrestricted access to semi automatic weapons has become less acute in the public consciousness. The fact that the New South Wales government is now is the process of making shooting legal within that state's national parks seems to reflect a similar shift in attitude.
This is not indicative of a failure in Australia's gun laws. It may be that their very success has led to complacency and thus a greater tolerance of firearms within the general community.
Australia has been suggested as a model that the United States might study as it considers tightening its gun laws. Perhaps Australia should also use the United States as a model. The dreadful loss of young lives resulting from the Newtown shootings could serve as a reminder to all Australians of why this country strengthened its gun laws. It is to be hoped that Australia will not have to suffer a massacre on its own soil in order to remind its citizens of the reason why we were originally prepared to embrace restrictions on gun ownership.