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Gun politics in Australia
Gun politics, and in particular, gun control in Australia was, before 1996, largely an issue for state governments. Historically, Australia has always had tough restrictions on handguns (requiring shooters to be members of registered gun clubs, and conducting extensive police checks on pistol shooters), whilst rifles and shotguns were considerably less restricted, with the only real restrictions on fully-automatic rifles.
Two spree killings in Victoria in the 1980s (the "Hoddle Street" and "Queen Street" massacres) saw several states require the registration of all guns, restrict the availability of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Gun laws in several states, including Queensland and Tasmania, remained quite relaxed.
Things changed drastically with the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. The killing of 35 people saw an outcry around the country and gun control advocates used the popular support to push for the nationwide banning of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, and more stringent requirements to obtain a gun license. Several states, most notably Queensland, objected to the changes, believing them to be too restrictive (for instance, restricting the ownership of semi-automatic small-calibre weapons that represent a relatively low threat to human life) and that gun-control advocates were exaggerating the effectiveness of the changes (because in the hands of a competent shooter a bolt-action rifle can be just as lethal as a semi-automatic). Shooters advocates also opposed the changes on this basis, as well as their belief that owning guns was a fundamental right.
Newly elected Prime Minister John Howard, already known to be an advocate of gun control, sought a national agreement to tighten laws, eventually threatening recalcitrant states with the possibility of a constitutional referendum (which, in the climate, would almost certainly have passed) to transfer power over gun laws to the Commonwealth. The American group, the National Rifle Association endeavoured to intervene in the issue by supporting gun advocates, but their involvement was not well-received by some in the Australian public. Eventually, agreement was reached between the states and the changes went through.
The Howard Government introduced a 1% levy on income tax for a period of one year to finance the buy back semi-automatic weapons from gun owners. This scheme was subject to criticism in its implementation (there were allegations that some of the relinquished weapons ended up on sale in gun shops), but, on the whole, televised images of large numbers of rifles and shotguns being crushed by heavy machinery were well-received by some in the Australian public. Others such as the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia have derided the $A500 million gun buyback as an immense failure - in 1995 67 Australians died from homicides-by-firearm. . As a comparision, in 2003 2213 Australians died from suicide  and in 2004 the federal government spent $A10 million on the National Advisory Council on Suicide Prevention.  Most of the previous suicides committed with firearms have moved to alternative methods.
Laws remained static until 2002, when a pistol-owning international student killed two fellow students at Monash University in Victoria, prompting a reexamination of handgun laws (which are already quite strict). As in 1996, the Federal Government prompted State Governments to review handgun laws, and as a result, ammended legislation was adopted in all states and territories. Key changes included a 10 round magazine capacity limit, stricter enforcement of participation in competitions (approved club membership being a prerequisite for handgun onwnership) and a caliber limit of less than .38. The new changes have not had a significant impact on handgun ownership in Australia. However, they did prompt many gun owners to relinquish their guns for compensation. This buyback was also criticized - in the state of Victoria $A21 million was spent buying back 18,124 firearms, while Victorians imported some 15,184 firearms. In many cases, gun owners did not permanently place firearms out of circulation, but simply exchanged an illegal firearm for a new legal firearm. 
According to government reports, since 1997, over 90% of all firearm related homicides are committed by unregistered firearms.
Shooter advocacy organisations have never approached the strength of the NRA in the United States and political sympathisers generally are quite discreet in their support. The perceived lack of support by politicians is generally attributed to the distribution of electoral seats in Australia, with a vast majority of electorates lying over areas with high population density, places with obviously much lower gun ownership rates.
Knives are used 2-3 times as often as firearms in robberies.  Needless to say, knife use requires more skill and strength than successful gun-use, creating a wider gap between the strong and the weak.
The number of unregistered or uncontrolled firearms continues to increase, with an average of over 4,000 firearms stolen a year, primarily from residences (although one gun-dealer had approximately 600 firearms stolen sometime between 1999 and 2000).  Concern has been raised about the number of smuggled pistols reaching Australia, particularly in New South Wales. This has in fact become a hot issue in recent times as people are becoming more sympathetic to private gun owners and the burdensome restrictions placed on them, forcing the political climate to focus more on the criminal aspect of gun misuse rather than the mere private ownership. This change has been attributed by many to a lot of recent publicity for high profile shooters, such as the recent overwhelming success in the Olympics (something that regularly takes the front page of major newspapers) and the plight of Michael Diamond, and his struggle with the gun laws before competing in the games in order to try to break a long standing Australian gold medal record.
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