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7 people, including 4 children, shot dead in southwestern Australia

7 people, including 4 children, shot dead in southwestern Australia
Seven people have been discovered dead near the town of Margaret River, south of Perth, Australia, police say. They are believed to be victims of a mass shooting, with guns found nearby. Four of the victims are children.

Police were called in early on Friday morning to a rural property near Margaret River. Upon their arrival, they discovered seven people dead at the scene: three adults and four children, according to a statement by Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson. Two firearms were discovered at the scene, and the bodies appeared to have gunshot wounds. Special units, including homicide investigators and a forensics unit, were dispatched from Perth. Police are reportedly treating the tragedy as a murder-suicide.

Western Australia Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told a news conference that the people found dead appeared to be residents of the property, and efforts to locate their relatives are ongoing. He said that a “male person” connected to the property called the police just after 5:00am local time, and officers arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, according to ABC News.

At the moment, detectives from the Homicide Squad and Forensic Crime Scene Unit remain at the location as part of the investigation. “This will be a very large-scale and detailed investigation,” Dawson said.

Shootings on such a scale are rare in Australia, where tough gun legislation effectively bans civilians from possessing many types of firearms. All legal guns must be registered to their owners by serial numbers, and possessing one requires a license, which, in turn, requires a legitimate reason. Self-defense is not considered reason enough to get a gun license.

The current gun laws were introduced after a mass shooting in 1996, and they led to a sharp decline in the number of such incidents. The government also bought back or confiscated about a million now-illegal firearms from citizens.

Another "gun amnesty" took place in 2017 and lasted for three months, during which citizens turned in some 57,000 weapons. Among them were some exotic specimens, like 19th-century guns or a rocket launcher. Outside of an amnesty, possessing an illegal firearm is punishable by a massive fine and a prison sentence.