How tragic events unfolded at Port Arthur

A TIMELINE OF EVENTS AROUND PORT ARTHUR

1996

April 28 – Martin Bryant, 28, drives to Seascape Guesthouse and kills owners David and Sally Martin with a military-style semi-automatic rifle.

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He then heads to Port Arthur historic site, where he has lunch at the Broad Arrow Cage before opening fire. Shooting with purpose, he hunts down victims as he moves through the cafe, gift shop, carpark and elsewhere around the site. He takes a hostage and drives back to the guesthouse where he holds siege throughout the night.

April 29 – Police surround the house and capture Bryant after an 18-hour standoff when the house catches fire and Bryant runs out with burns to his body.

Police announce 35 people were killed in the massacre and 18 wounded.

Reeling from the unprecedented killings – the worst mass shooting in Australian history – Tasmania’s political parties agree on an immediate tightening of gun laws.

April 30 – Bryant is charged with his first count of murder in a hospital bedside hearing.

May 1 – Nation’s political leaders lay wreaths at Port Arthur and attend memorial services. The newly elected prime minister, John Howard, deeply moved by the tragedy, promises to crack down on guns and introduce new laws.

May 5 – Bryant is transferred to Risdon Prison.

May 7 – Tasmania outlaws semi-automatic and military-style guns and magazines capable of holding more than five rounds.

May 10 – At a special summit convened by Mr Howard, federal, state and territory police ministers sign an agreement to introduce new uniform gun laws, including bans on types of semi-automatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns, and a stricter licensing regime. The federal government also plans a massive, publicly funded buyback scheme to take guns off the streets.

August 15 – Tasmania passes new federally aligned gun laws.

September 9 – Chief Justice William Cox orders Bryant to be arraigned.

September 30 – Bryant appears in the Tasmanian Supreme Court amid historic security precautions. He pleads not guilty to 72 charges which include 35 murder charges.

October 15 – The first 1000 surrendered guns are melted down and destroyed under new state laws.

November 7 – Bryant switches non-guilty plea to guilty on all 72 charges, including 35 murder charges. The move spares survivors from having to testify.

November 19 – In the Tasmanian Supreme Court Director of Public Prosecutions Damian Bugg, QC, details the gruesome details of Bryant’s murderous spree.

November 20 – The sentencing hearing continues. Defence lawyer John Avery says Bryant won’t say why he did it. Medical evidence reveals personality disorders and intellectual incapacity. Bryant admits he expects to die in prison.

November 22 – Chief Justice William Cox sentences Bryant to 35 life sentences for the murder charges and 37 sentences of 21 years for all other offences and orders he remain in prison for the term of his natural life.

1996-1997

– Successive states pass gun reform laws to a national standard. As part of gun buyback scheme 700,000 weapons are surrendered.

2002

– Further restrictions of firearms trafficking and handguns are brought in after a shooting spree at Monash University where a licensed pistol owner killed two students and wounded five more.