PERTH, Australia — Seven people, including four children, were found dead from gunshot wounds at a rural property in Western Australia on Friday, the police said, in what appeared to be the country’s worst mass shooting in more than 20 years.
The police were called just after 5 a.m. on Friday to the home of Cynda and Peter Miles in Osmington, a village near the tourist town of Margaret River, 170 miles south of Perth. There they discovered the victims, four adults and three children.
Crime-scene and homicide detectives traveled from Perth to investigate.
South West Superintendent Mick Sutherland, the most senior police officer in the region, said on Friday that the property was a crime scene “and we’ve got to figure out what happened.” He said the police expected to be on the site for up to five days.
The police have yet to publicly identify the victims or the gunman, who is presumed to be among them.
“The loss of any life is tragic, but the loss of four children and three adults — this is a significant tragedy,” Chris Dawson, commissioner of the Western Australia Police, said at a news conference. “Police are currently responding to what I can only describe as a horrific incident.”
The deaths represent the worst mass shooting in Australia since 1996, when a gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania. That event was the catalyst for a significant strengthening of the country’s gun laws.
American proponents of gun control, including former President Barack Obama, often point to Australia’s strict regulations and few mass shootings as a guide to limiting such events in the United States. Experts typically define a mass shooting as the deaths of four people, excluding the gunman, in a single event.
Australia’s previous worst shooting since 1996 took place in 2014, when a farmer shot his wife and three children before killing himself.
According to neighbors and public records, Cynda Miles worked for a local community group. Her daughter Katrina Miles, and her four children, ages 8 to 13, lived on the property. The children were all home-schooled there.
The police said they would identify victims only after next of kin had been notified.
Osmington has a population of just 135 and mostly consists of farming properties and vineyards. It is about 12 miles northeast of Margaret River, a popular tourist destination known for its wineries, surfing and natural beauty.