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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

PRESS RELEASE:  Issued April 24th, 2006

 PORT ARTHUR MASS MURDERS: A PLEA

As the tenth anniversary of the Port Arthur mass murders approaches, a special plea has been issued for the occasion to be treated with dignity, compassion and sympathy.

President of the Coalition of Law Abiding Sporting Shooters Inc., Peter Whelan has requested that, not only should we remember the 35 victims, along with the friends and relatives left behind, but also those in the community who owned firearms.

“Those of us who owned firearms for target shooting, hunting, recreation or occupation, were made to feel individually responsible for those murders,” argued Whelan.

“But that only served to divert attention from the main issues relating to this tragedy; vast amounts of money and scarce police resources were diverted to harassing law abiding gun owners, while the issues of mental health, drugs and other social problems remain ignored.”

In the highly charged heat of the moment, the Prime Minister, John Howard, chose to let his personal dislike of guns take over. But the tragedy at Port Arthur should never have been exploited by anyone who, for deep psychological reasons, may have a hatred of firearms.

“In a sense, every person in Australia has become a victim of those tragic events in Tasmania on 28th April, 1996”, Whelan explained. “More than one billion taxpayer-dollars have been wasted in buying old rabbit rifles and fox guns during the buy-back. In addition, the vast computer systems of national gun registration established by the States continue to consume valuable police resources. There is yet to be a case where the gun buy-back, or gun registration, can be shown to have saved one life, or prevented or solved any crime!”

With no judicial inquiry, coronial inquest, or scientific analysis, it was decided that somehow we would all be better off and feel safer, if all those guns were taken and crushed: the guns of those who had never committed any crime!

Whelan went on to explain, “That action was rather similar to the sacrificial offerings of ancient times, where the most beautiful virgin in the tribe was thrown into the volcano, in the hope that the gods would stop the eruptions. A full and detailed inquiry into the mental condition of Martin Bryant would certainly have highlighted failings in the identification, diagnosis and treatment of those with a mental illness”.

A coronial inquest would surely have taken into account the role of the media, said Whelan. “TV and newspapers had been full of the details of the Dunblane (UK) murders in early March 1996. It is highly possible that Bryant was inspired to engage in a copy-cat mission, as he had already studied other mass murderers”.

When interviewed following the Port Arthur shooting spree, Martin Bryant is reported to have boasted, “Have I got the record?”

The phenomenon of contagion should also have been examined. In the months leading up to the Port Arthur massacre there had been several TV programs and newspaper articles showing how a person could go about buying a gun and committing a serious crime. In October 1995 the then Tasmanian Police Minister (Frank Madill) severely criticised the program A Current Affair for running such a story. Such programs as these, promoted by Gun Control advocates, may have provided a corrupting influence for the simple-minded Martin Bryant, guiding him to follow the road map laid out for him!

Whelan also referred to others who had disagreed with the “blame the gun” course of action. Specialist in Emergency Medicine, Dr Walker, in addressing an Emergency Medicine Conference in Adelaide in November 1997, claimed gun law reform undertaken in 1996 in response to the Port Arthur massacre was a government fraud: "It has been one of the greatest frauds perpetrated against the Australian taxpayer," Dr Walker said.

Other experts in the field of Public Health have recently expressed a similar view. For example, Doctor Louis Christie, Emergency Physician practicing at Orange, N.S.W., claimed, “There is no doubt that if the money spent on gun buy-back schemes and restrictions on firearms ownership had been spent instead on the health budget, there would have been far more tangible outcomes”.

Whelan also notes the latest OECD report which cited Australians as having the highest rate of serious crime victimisation among developed nations. “It is clear from the number of drive-by shootings and murders in Sydney and gangland killings in Melbourne, that none of the criminals handed in their guns”.

We need to put Port Arthur into perspective, continued Whelan. “In New South Wales alone, from 1999 to 2003, there were 36 murders carried out by patients who had been recently released from mental health care!” Then, in reference to the Doctor Death scandal at Bundaberg Hospital, “More than 80 patients died after cut-backs in medical funding left them without a suitably qualified Medical Chief!”

“But the situation with Dental Health is also at crisis point, with more than 650,000 Australians on waiting lists for public dental care and many waiting up to 4 years for treatment”, explained Whelan.

Every Australian has suffered from the massive misallocation of resources following the events at Port Arthur on 28th April, 1996.

For further supporting information please contact:

Peter Whelan   President, Coalition of Law Abiding Sporting Shooters Inc.