By: Robert Davis
A parolee who was well known to law enforcement in Australia shot and killed four people in the northern city of Darwin during an hour-long shooting spree at several crime scenes.
The accused shooter, 45-year-old Benjamin Glenn Hoffmann, was paroled in January, and was arrested while wearing an electronic monitoring anklet.
In a Facebook post, the Northern Territory Police Department (NTPD) said they don’t believe the shooting was an act of terrorism, and said, “There is no ongoing threat to the community.”
But, the optimistic response from the NTPD hasn’t stopped gun rights groups from pointing out the failures of Australia’s gold standard gun laws.
“All this has proven yet again is that illegal firearms are accessible to anyone in Australia who wants one, mass killings will continue to happen and police can’t protect you from these incidents,” a blog post by Firearm Owners United (FOU), an American gun rights advocacy group, reads.
Under Australian law, Hoffman should have had his firearm owners’ license revoked following his arrest. During his court hearing after the shooting, Hoffman admitted he suffered from mental illness, another revocable factor.
“I do need help. I have asked for help,” The Guardian reported Hoffmann telling chief justice Elizabeth Morris.
According to reports, Hoffman used a pump action shotgun during the shooting spree. Those are classified as a Class C weapon under Australian law, meaning Hoffman needed to demonstrate he was a primary producer, farm worker, firearm dealer, firearm safety officer, collector, or clay target shooter to obtain the proper licensure for the weapon.
A demonstrable history of mental illness would have disqualified Hoffman’s application immediately.
This is the third mass shooting in Australia since the country enacted its tough-on-gun laws in 1996 after a deranged person killed 35 people in the Tasmanian territory with an AR-15. Ongoing threats aside, this event shows that even a country with strict gun laws can’t stop mass shootings.
The Northern Territory has become a hotbed for violent acts, according to ABC News’ Australian affiliate. Domestic violence in the territory is three times higher than the national average, and the territory is home to some of Australia’s most brutal crimes.
In 1999, Australian police killed buffalo hunter Rod Ansell after Ansell ambushed police officers with a 30-30 lever action rifle. The manhunt for decapitator Jonathan Stenberg in 2013 began and ended in the region as well.
How does this tie into the most recent violent crime in the area? The accused, 45-year-old Benjamin Glenn Hoffmann, is also from the Territory. This revelation lead some to speculate that the shooting may be a product of the Territory itself.
“Not only do we have a failure of firearm and self-defense laws, we also have yet another failure of the justice system and parole board,” the FOU blog post continues. “No doubt Gun Control Australia and the usual suspects are already on the phone to the Guardian and will be out in force over the next couple of days, using this as an emotional catalyst to try and bring in pre-drafted restrictions or legislation.”
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can reach him at [email protected].