Former Liberal prime minister John Howard has joined the call to tighten the gun laws he introduced 20 years ago.
The laws were introduced by his government after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, when a mass shooter killed 35 people, but critics argue they control law-abiding gun owners while doing little to control criminal use of guns.
The state and federal governments are considering changing the laws to address the steep rise in gun crime on Australia’s streets.
Speaking on the SBS program Insight, Mr Howard said governments should be vigilant about criminals obtaining firearms.
Referring to the Parramatta shooting last year, where a 15-year-old boy shot and killed a police employee, he said that when 15-year-olds can get hold of weapons like that “there is something wrong with the laws”.
“I’m not going to preach at the state government over this… I’m wholly against any watering down of the existing laws, and I would encourage sensible strengthening of the existing laws,” he said.
“Once you give people access to weapons and those people snap or exhibit a mental illness, then you will have tragedy.”
The opposition spokesman on justice and police, Guy Zangari, told The Newsroom “the NSW Police need to be given every resource possible to prevent shootings, given that in the first three months of 2016 there have been 28 shootings – almost 10 a month”.
Since the Liberal Government came to office, he said, there had been 575 shootings across NSW.
“The rise in shootings on the NSW Liberal Government’s watch is simply unacceptable,” he said. – Jesse Mullens
Screenshot shows John Howard speaking on Insight this week.