28/01/2016 11:12 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

Bill Shorten Slams Ted Cruz Over Claims Gun Laws Increased Rape In Australia


Labor leader Bill Shorten has sent a fiery letter to Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, after the U.S. Senator claimed Australia's 1996 gun buyback program led to an increase in rape.

Cruz, polling at second place in the Republican presidential field with 19 percent in a recent poll, said in an interview on January 12 that Australia's gun reforms after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre led to a jump in sexual assaults.

"After Australia did that [gun buyback program], the rate of sexual assaults, the rate of rapes, went up significantly, because women were unable to defend themselves," Cruz said.

Cruz was widely lambasted, with the Washington Post's fact-checker labelling the assertion a "four Pinocchio" or "whopper" of a claim, finding no evidence to support the claim.

After the claim was covered in Australian media in recent days, opposition leader Shorten wrote an admonishing letter to Cruz.

"These claims are both offensive and incorrect," Shorten wrote in the letter, shared exclusively with The Huffington Post Australia.

"After a terrible massacre at Port Arthur in 1996, where one gunman murdered 35 innocent people with semi-automatic weapons, Prime Minister John Howard and Opposition Leader Kim Beazley (later to serve as Ambassador to the United States) took swift, bipartisan action to tighten gun ownership restrictions in our country. This was indisputably the right thing to do."

Shorten commented that he thought the gun reforms were Howard's "finest achievement in office".

"Contrary to your comments, reducing the number and restricting the availability of semi-automatic weapons did not lead to an increase in the rates of violent crime, rape or sexual assault," Shorten continued.

"I urge you to study our example in detail before you pass comment on our system again. Please do not misrepresent the success of Australia’s gun reforms in a misguided defence of your own gun laws. Americans are entitled to know the truth - that the reforms to Australia’s gun laws are working and lives are being saved."