New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull answers a question after announcing his new cabinet at a press conference in Canberra on September 20, 2015. Turnbull announced the cabinet reshuffle, promoting more women to key positions just days after he ousted Tony Abbott in a party coup. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull answers a question after announcing his new cabinet at a press conference in Canberra on September 20, 2015. Turnbull announced the cabinet reshuffle, promoting more women to key positions just days after he ousted Tony Abbott in a party coup. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia’s 20-year-old ban on semi-automatic firearms stemmed from the mass killing, the third worst perpetrated by a single gunman in history in Tasmania two decades ago.

New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull answers a question after announcing his new cabinet at a press conference in Canberra on September 20, 2015. Turnbull announced the cabinet reshuffle, promoting more women to key positions just days after he ousted Tony Abbott in a party coup. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
New Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKS (Photo credit should read PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

Turnbull pledged to protect these laws out of respect for the attack’s victims and their loved ones.

“There is one absolutely non-negotiable factor and we must continue to maintain our strong and responsible stance with respect to guns,” Turnbull, who holds a gun license himself, told local radio on Thursday.

Turnbull, along with former Prime Minster John Howard, will attend a small ceremony to mark 20 years since Australia’s worst mass killing Thursday at the site.

On April 28, 1996, Martin Bryant gunned down 35 people and wounded 23 others in the small historical town of Port Arthur, a former British convict settlement on the Tasmanian Peninsula.

Howard, Australia’s leader at the time of the attack, was the only person formally invited to the ceremony.

As Australia’s second longest serving prime minister, Howard spearheaded the Federal government’s fierce response to the massacre. In the aftermath, Howard passed laws outlawing the ownership of semi-automatic weapons, like the military-grade Colt AR-15 SP1 Carbine firearm used by Bryant during the bloodshed.

Turnbull said Howard’s modern-day gun measures had saved countless lives and wouldn’t be changed.

“Tragedies like this bring the nation together,” Turnbull said.

“They brought us together, led by prime minister John Howard, in a great resolution to act, and the National Firearms Agreement which followed after the Port Arthur tragedy was one of John Howard’s greatest achievements and it has kept Australians safer ever since.”

Tasmania’s Premier Will Hodgman and Governor Kate Warner will also be in attendance at the ceremony.

In the lead up to the solemn occasion, a report has surfaced showing Australians actually own more guns than they did prior to the mass killing.

In 1996, Australia introduced a gun buyback scheme with owners encouraged to hand in their weapons. As a result, 700,000 privately held guns were melted down.

However, research from the Sydney University on Thursday found that a surge in gun imports had replaced the semi-automatic firearms destroyed in the Howard years.

Gun ownership statistics showed that Australians have legally brought in more than 1 million firearms into country over the past 16 years.

“The proud claim of some Australians that their country has ‘solved the gun problem’ might only be a temporary illusion,” The study’s author Sydney University’s associate professor, Philip Alpers, wrote in the Conversation on Thursday.

Australia no longer produces guns, meaning all firearms must be imported through legal means.

Accounting for population growth, however, private ownership is in fact down around 23 percent when compared with figures before the Port Arthur massacre. Endit

Source: Xinhua

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