On April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant — a once normal kid — loaded an AR-15 rifle and unloaded it’s slugs at Port Arthur, Tasmania. When the last shell hit the pavement, 35 victims lay slain.
Martin Bryant's life was plagued by death from an early age. A neighbor remembered the day he shot every parrot in the neighborhood, and dead animals were often found on the Bryant farm with no natural explanation. Despite these warning signs, no one could have predicted the devastating events of April 28, 1996 - the Port Arthur Massacre, the worst mass shooting in Australian history.
Bryant's past was filled with red flags, including a strange relationship with a wealthy older woman who died in a car accident with Bryant in the passenger seat and a reputation for grabbing the steering wheel while she drove. The year after her death, Bryant's father was found drowned on the family farm with Bryant's scuba weight belt wrapped around his chest and sheep carcasses nearby. Despite this unnatural death, Bryant inherited his father's savings and used it to stockpile guns.
On April 28, 1996, Bryant headed into the Seascape guesthouse and blasted away its owners, then made his way to the Broad Arrow Cafe where he shot 12 people in 15 seconds. He then went on to kill eight more people in the gift shop and several others in the parking lot before taking a hostage and hiding in the guesthouse. The standoff lasted 18 hours before Bryant set the guesthouse on fire and was arrested. In total, 35 people were killed in the massacre.
The Port Arthur massacre sparked immediate action from the Australian government, which passed strict gun laws and launched a gun buyback program. The program melted down 650,000 firearms and led to a 74% reduction in firearm suicides, saving 200 lives every year. Since the massacre, there have been no mass shootings in Australia.
Martin Bryant pleaded guilty to 35 counts of murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. In contrast to the United States' inaction after mass shootings, Australia's swift response to Port Arthur serves as a testament to the country's commitment to preventing future tragedies. As former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer stated, "Port Arthur was our Sandy Hook. Port Arthur we acted on. The USA is not prepared to act on their tragedies."