Walter Mikac on gun laws

in News

Foundation Patron Walter Mikac shares his thoughts on gun laws after losing his wife, Nanette, and daughters, Alannah and Madeline, in the 1996 Port Arthur tragedy.

By Walter Mikac, Foundation Patron

Mama, put my guns in the ground, I can't shoot them anymore. That long black cloud is comin' down, I feel I'm knockin' on heaven's door.

Whenever I hear the lyrics to Bob Dylan’s Knockin' on Heaven's Door, a shiver goes through my psyche. How can we allow gun massacres to continue happening? Aren't our lives worth more than this? Particularly the lives of our children, our next generation? Our children and their children have the right to live in a safe environment without fear.

When the Port Arthur tragedy occurred in 1996 and I lost my wife, Nanette, and daughters, Alannah and Madeline, the world was left incredulous and dumbfounded. How could one person kill 35 people and cause such carnage and mayhem?

Only one week after the Port Arthur tragedy, I faxed newly elected Prime Minister John Howard a letter asking that we have real change to minimise the chances of an event like this occurring again. I wanted a legacy for my wife, two daughters and the other 32 victims. John Howard rang me at home that night to ask if he could read my letter at a police ministers' meeting the next day. He wanted to make a clear statement that this is not the society Australia wants nor will tolerate.

John Howard, surrounded by a tsunami of public opinion, introduced uniform national gun laws banning semi-automatic firearms that same year. I plead for all Australians to never become complacent about what was achieved. Australians be proud. In the 17 years since these laws were introduced, our rate of death by guns has declined by 50 per cent.

Don't get me wrong, some groups like farmers and the military have reasons to have guns. I'm not anti-guns, but why do we need semi-automatic firearms of any type?

And what will eventuate in the US? Sadly, massacres there no longer register as front-page news. I recall that George W. Bush said of the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy, "These students (in their lecture theatre) were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

There seems to be an attitude that they need more guns to protect against the massive number of people who already possess guns. This is a spiral more threatening than all the cyclones and catastrophes mother nature can summon.

Since our gun law reforms in 1996 there has been no mass shootings in our country and we have one of the lowest gun-related death rates in the developed world (1.03 deaths per 100,000 people). In comparison other countries such as the US, saw 372 mass shootings last year alone.

The statistics clearly show, less guns available to a population results in less deaths by firearms.

Recently and after  yet another mass shooting in the US, President Barrack Obama pleaded for Congress to follow the lead of countries, such as Australia in installing tougher gun laws.

There were only two good things that come out of the Port Arthur tragedy, the Foundation and gun laws reforms. I am very proud of our national gun laws and the way they protect our children.

You may also be interested in

  • The Kings Men "Ride Different 2016"

    Friday the 20th of November marks the commencement of The Kings Men cycle race team’s Ride Different cycling event, to commemorate the 20th year since the Port Arthur tragedy.

    Read More >
  • Remembering those lost at Port Arthur 20 years ago

    Hundreds of guests paid tribute to those lost, Walter saying the event was a wonderful dedication to his family and those with a connection to the tragedy.

    Read More >
  • Spending time in the Cubby House

    Our award-winning Cubby House at the Broadmeadows Children’s Court continues to assist many young people who have been removed from their home because they are at risk.

    Read More >

Donate Today

Your donation can help keep a child safe from violence.

Read More >

Digital Reputation & Privacy, Primary

Introduces the concept of Digital citizenship whilst discussing safe social media use, and critical digital literacy.

Read More >

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter below or visit our media centre for media information including media releases, spokespeople, publications and contacts.