Family dead in Australia’s worst mass shooting in two decades

A family of seven people, including four children, was found dead Friday in an Australian village in what is being considered the country’s worst mass shooting in 22 years, officials said.

Police are treating the incident as a murder-suicide and said they were not looking for any suspects, according to Australian news outlet ABC.

The children, whose ages were not disclosed, died with their mother and grandparents in Osmington, a village of fewer than 700 residents near the tourist town of Margaret River.

Police responding to a phone call found the bodies and two guns at the property, Western Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.

“This devastating tragedy will no doubt have a lasting impact on the families concerned, the whole community and, in particular, the local communities in our southwest,” he added.

A family friend told ABC that Katrina Miles and her four children were among the victims. Her parents, who are listed on the property title as Peter and Cynda Miles, also were killed, the friend said.

Two adults were found outside and the other five bodies were located inside, according to the outlet.

The mass shooting is the worst Down Under since 1996, when a lone gunman killed 35 people and seriously wounded 23 others in Port Arthur.

Local lawmaker Libby Mettam said Friday’s deaths had already sent “significant shockwaves” through the community.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone that will be affected by this tragedy, including those first responders,” Mettam said.

Former local Councillor Felicity Haynes described the slain family as “caring neighbors.”

“They were just such lovely people,” she said.

Nearby resident Freya Cheffers said she was in shock.

“Everybody’s just devastated … I just prayed that I didn’t know the family, as it turns out I kind of do,” she told ABC.

Australia’s gun laws are widely regarded as a success, with supporters including former President Obama saying Australia has not had a single mass shooting since they were implemented.

The accepted definition of a mass shooting — four deaths excluding the shooter in a single event — has been met only once in Australia since 1996 when a farmer shot his wife and three children before killing himself in 2014.

Under Australian law, farmers are allowed to own guns because they have a legitimate need to use them to kill predators or sick or injured livestock.

But automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.

Samantha Lee, chairwoman of the Gun Control Australia lobby group, said rural areas were over-represented in Australian gun deaths, including suicides.

“Regional and rural areas are particularly vulnerable to these sorts of tragedies, because of the combination of isolation, sometimes mental or financial hardship and easy access to firearms,” Lee said in a statement.

“Although the details of this tragedy are yet to come to light, Australia has a tragic history of higher rate of gun deaths in rural areas,” she added.

With Post Wires

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