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Australians Turn In 600,000 Weapons

Shocked by the worst massacre in its modern history, Australia has taken a giant step toward disarming itself - turning in 600,000 firearms under a police buy-back program.

While some gun owners claim the program will have little or no effect on violent crime, anti-gun groups point to the huge piles of weapons that have been collected and destroyed by police as tangible proof that Australians are safer.

Since Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people on the island of Tasmania 17 months ago, states joined together to outlaw some types of firearms, including rapidfire hunting rifles and pump-action shotguns used widely to kill rabbits and kangaroos.

The states offered gun owners cash and immunity to turn in their illegal weapons.

Since the buy-back deal went into effect, the government has paid almost $225 million in compensation for arms, Attorney General Daryl Williams said Tuesday, one day before the program was to end.

In addition to rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, a wide variety of previously illegal weapons were handed in, including Uzi pistols, World War II-era machine guns and M-60s, officials said. One woman turned in a fully operational anti-aircraft gun that was sitting in her back yard. Another person handed in helicopter-mounted cannons.


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