OSMINGTON, Australia — On the road to the property where seven people from the same family were killed on Friday in Australia’s worst mass shooting in decades, a small makeshift sign says, “Church open for prayer.”
In a community so small and tight-knit that some farms have just the first names of their owners painted on the driveway gates, it’s a small, silent reference to a trauma that the entire area is still struggling to grasp.
But there are other indications: the police vehicles blocking roads; and the community center in nearby Margaret River offering counseling with television news cameras clustering outside.
“This incident has shocked our local community to the core,” said Pam Townshend, president of Augusta-Margaret River Shire, the district that includes Osmington, where the shooting occurred. She added, “What happened will have a huge ripple effect.”
The Margaret River region is a tourism mecca known for its vineyards, its natural beauty and its laid-back, friendly attitude. Now a shadow hangs over the community as people struggle to come to terms with the deaths of three adults and four children in a murder-suicide on Friday morning.
The police say they believe that Peter Miles shot his wife, Cynda Miles, who was a prominent member of the community; their daughter Katrina Miles; and their four grandchildren before calling the police and then taking his own life.
Image“I love Australia. I have never felt unsafe in Australia before,” said Daytona Stanga, originally from Texas, who has lived in Australia for two years and Margaret River for several months.CreditGiovanni Torre for The New York Times
The police declined to speculate on a motive.
The Miles family lived together on a property on Osmington Road, Osmington, a quiet rural area 13 miles outside the town of Margaret River. Officers arrived on the scene early Friday morning to find the bodies with bullet wounds, and recovered three rifles from the scene — all licensed to Mr. Miles.
To the frustration of some Australians, the shooting quickly became part of the conversation about gun control in the United States, partly because Australia has long prided itself on passing strict gun-control laws after a mass shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania, in 1996.
Until Friday, the country had suffered only one other mass shooting — generally defined by experts as a shooting that involves at least four victims in a singular event. But gun- control experts have been saying for years that Australia’s laws have slowly