7 dead in what may be Australia’s worst mass shooting in 22 years

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CANBERRA, Australia — Seven people were found dead with gunshot wounds at a property near the tourist town of Margaret River in Australia’s southwest on Friday in what could be the country’s worst mass shooting in 22 years, police said. The bodies of three adults and four children and two guns were found at a rural property at the village of Osmington, Western Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.

The bodies of two adults were found outside a building on the property and the rest were found inside. They all resided at the property, he said.

Police have no information to raise concerns about wider public safety. Police were led to the property by a phone call before dawn, Dawson said.

He would not comment on the possibility of murder-suicide or the identity of the caller.

“Police are currently responding to what I can only describe as a horrific incident,” Dawson told reporters.

“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.

Police were attempting to make contact with the victims’ relatives, Dawson said. He declined to release the names or ages of the dead.

This could be the worst mass shooting in Australia since a lone gunman killed 35 in Tasmania state in 1996, prompting the nation to introduce tough gun controls.

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

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

Police have revealed few details about the recent killings, and it isn’t clear whether there was more than one shooter.

Farmers are allowed to own guns under Australian law because they have a legitimate need to use them to kill feral pests and predators or sick or injured livestock. But automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.

After passing the tough gun laws, Australia bought back or confiscated 1 million firearms, the Reuters news agency notes.

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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