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Australia mulls new gun amnesty as city shootings rise

General scene of the Port Arthur historic convict site in Tasmania. A gunman killed 35 people here in 1996. (Photo by Geoff Hiscock)

SYDNEY -- A crazed gunman shot dead 35 people at Port Arthur, a historic tourist site in the Australian island state of Tasmania in April 1996, prompting then-Prime Minister John Howard to outlaw military-style assault weapons and introduce a gun buyback scheme as part of a tough set of national firearm laws.

Australia's gun homicide and suicide rates have both fallen markedly in the intervening 20 years and there have been no mass shootings (defined as five or more victims) since the tragedy at Port Arthur. But gun-related violence in Australia's biggest cities has risen in recent years, and now federal and state authorities are considering a new gun amnesty and other measures such as tougher sentences to counter a surge of shootings in Melbourne and Sydney.

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