Seven dead in Australia's worst shooting since 1996 Port Arthur massacre

Seven dead in Australia's worst shooting since 1996 Port Arthur massacre

Seven people, including four children, have been killed in Osmington, Western Australia, in what is believed to be the country's worst mass shooting since 1996.

At a press briefing, WA police commissioner Chris Dawson said that a “horrific incident” had occurred at a rural property about 20km north of the town of Margaret River, in the state's south west. Police have not officially confirmed the identity of the shooter, they say that he is among the dead and they are not looking for any other suspect.

Katrina Miles, her four children, and her parents Peter and Cynda all died in the incident. Dawson confirmed in the first press briefing that a "male person" connected to the property alerted police to the situation just after 5am.

The father of Katrina Miles' children, Aaron Cockman, has since said that he believed the shooting had been pre-planned. He also said that Mr Miles had struggled in the aftermath of the suicide of one of his sons.

Officers were been called to the outskirts of the property at approximated 5.15am on Friday morning. Upon arrival, they found seven people dead; five of these were inside a building, with two others found outside. Two firearms were also recovered.

The incident is the worst loss of life in a single shooting incident since the Port Arthur massacre of 1996, in which 35 people were killed and 23 injured when a gunman opened fire in the historic Tasmanian town of Port Arthur.

In the wake of the Port Arthur shooting, all Australian states introduced strict gun laws, banning semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic shotguns, as well as introducing more thorough background checks for those wishing to purchase guns. Buyers must also present a "reasonable" justification for wanting to own a gun and protection is not considered one of them.

In the five years before these laws were introduced, there were four shootings in which six or more people were killed. The only similar incident in the 20 years since then occurred in 2014, when a man shot four members of his family in Lockhart, New South Wales, before turning the gun on himself. Suicide gun deaths have also dropped significantly.

As such, the rarity of mass shootings in the country, especially compared to the United States, has seen Australia's gun laws widely heralded as a success and suggested as a model for other countries to follow.

However, in recent years, some states have been accused of watering these laws down, with New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia all coming in for criticism. Gun opponents, including Gun Control Australia, have highlighted the softening of regulations around ownership and allowing unlimited possession of ammunition among their concerns.