Seven people have been found dead with gunshot wounds at a property near the tourist town of Margaret River in Australia’s southwest on Friday, police said.
The bodies of three adults and four children and two guns were found at a property at the village of Osmington, Western Australia state Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said.
Police were called to the house at around 5.15am local time (Thursday 10.15pm BST) and officers have no concerns about wider public safety, Mr Dawson added.
“Police are currently responding to what I can only describe as a horrific incident,” he said.
“This devastating tragedy will no doubt have a lasting impact on the families concerned, the whole community and, in particular, the local communities in our southwest.”
Police were attempting to make contact with victims’ relatives, Mr Dawson said.
He would not comment on the possibility of murder-suicide.
This could be the worst mass shooting in Australia since a lone gunman killed 35 in Tasmania in 1996, prompting the nation to introduce tough gun controls.
Australia’s gun laws are widely acclaimed as a success, with supporters including former US president Barack Obama saying Australia has not had a single mass shooting since they were implemented.
The generally accepted definition of a mass shooting — four deaths excluding the shooter in a single event — has been met only once in Australia since then in 2014 when a farmer shot his wife and three children before killing himself.
Farmers are allowed to own guns under Australian law because they have a legitimate need to use them to kill feral pests and predators or sick or injured livestock.
But automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are banned from public ownership.