Mass shootings in Australia are rare. The ambush of four police officers in the Australian state of Queensland has caused grief and revulsion across the country.
A complex investigation is now underway into the fatal shootings of two police constables, killed on Monday in an ambush at a remote farm.
Australian investigators are looking closely at the online activities of the shooters in the lead-up to the ambush.
The attackers were two brothers. Nathaniel Train was a former school principal. Gareth Train was employed briefly as a social worker and was deeply involved in conspiratorial anti-government and anti-COVID vaccination websites. His wife, Stacey, who was an ex-teacher, also died after a six-hour armed confrontation with police tactical units.
The tactical units were deployed after the two police constables — both in their twenties — were killed as they walked up a driveway at a remote property 300 kilometers west of Brisbane. Two colleagues survived the ambush, but a neighbor who had come to investigate a fire was also shot dead.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll told reporters Thursday that the force was determined to find out what motivated the attackers, and that “We will get to the bottom of it. We have to get to the bottom of it. We need answers not only for those who have passed away but family, colleagues and the community. We need to understand what happened here.”
Elise Thomas, an analyst with the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Wednesday one of the gunmen’s use of conspiratorial websites would also be scrutinized.
“For a lot of people when they are, sort of, deep enough into conspiracy theories it does not matter that it does not make sense, it does not matter that it is internally contradictory,” Thomas said. “Because the reason they are drawn to these conspiracy theories, the reason they are stuck in them is, sort of, an emotional attachment, an emotional need. It is not necessarily a logical thing.”
Strict gun controls were introduced in Australia following the Port Arthur massacre on the island state of Tasmania in 1996 when a lone gunman murdered 35 people.
Despite a highly regulated firearms market, Australian criminals continue to have significant access to illicit firearms, according to a 2022 Deakin University study.
Following the deaths on Monday of the two police officers, the Queensland Police Union said the system that tracks firearms in Australia needed to be urgently reviewed.