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Australian leader defends gun controls on tragic anniversary

Published:Friday | April 29, 2016 | 4:00 AM
File photo, showing tourists reading names on a memorial in Port Arthur, Tasmania state, Australia, where 35 people were killed by a lone gunman in 1996. Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said a review of nation gun laws will not weaken strict regulations that have kept Australians safer.

CANBERRA (AP):

Australia's prime minister said yesterday that a review of national gun laws would not weaken strict regulations that had kept Australians safer since 35 people were shot dead by a mass murderer 20 years ago.

Malcolm Turnbull was in the island state of Tasmania to attend a 20th-anniversary commemoration of one of the world's worst mass murders by a lone gunman at the historic tourist site of Port Arthur on April 28, 1996.

Federal and state governments responded by severely restricting ownership of rapid-fire weapons and by buying back about one in five guns from Australia's public arsenal.

Turnbull told Hobart Radio 7HO that the National Firearms Agreement was one of the then Prime Minister John Howard's "greatest achievements, and it has kept Australians safer ever since".

A government inquiry into a 2014 siege in a Sydney cafe in which a gunman and two of his hostages died recommended a review of that agreement with a view to modernising it.

Gun enthusiasts fear that any changes to the agreement could mean greater restrictions on gun ownership, while gun-control advocates argue that the country was already backsliding on its post-Port Arthur regulations.