Call for off site storage of guns while on holiday

The Victorian Poilce Superintendant has called for firearms to be stored off-site when the owners are on holidays.

Tough laws banning guns from being kept at hobby farms or holiday houses, and forcing owners to keep weapons in more secure safes, should be introduced to prevent firearms from falling in the hands of criminals, a senior Victoria Police officer says.

According to an article in The Age, Superintendent Craig Gillard said organised criminals were able to steal thousands of firearms from registered owners in regional Victoria because existing laws meant safes were easily compromised and many properties were vacant when thieves struck.

After a year plagued by gun crime, Victoria Police committed to reviewing firearm laws and will make a submission to the state government. A new illicit firearms investigation team, embedded within the anti-gang Purana Task force, was announced earlier this month.

Superintendent Gillard, the head of practice for livestock and farm crime, said regional victims of gun theft almost always complied with laws regarding registration and storage, but were still an easy target.

Superintendent Gillard said firearms should have to be registered to a person’s primary residence, and a provision should be included preventing them from being kept at a property during a prolonged absence such as a holiday, as most thefts from regional areas occurred when the owner was away.

Thieves in organised networks who specifically target regional properties to supply guns to suburban criminals then have ample time to break into often flimsy gun safes, he said.

The guns are often stolen to order, and sometimes directly traded for drugs or to pay outstanding drug debts.

“There’s plenty of people who own properties they might visit every couple of weeks or couple of months and all too often we get reports of firearms stolen.

“It’s a pretty easy target for a crook. If you’re away from your property for more than a couple of days, we need to advocate for legislation that says you can’t leave firearms if a house is uninhabited.

“We don’t have incidents where people are breaking in when people are at home to steal firearms in rural areas. We aren’t seeing that.”

Superintendent Gillard said legislating for more secure firearm storage would at least make it harder for thieves after they broke into an empty house.

The Firearms Act specifies that a gun safe for category A and B longarms –which covers most shotguns and rifles found on regional properties –has to be made from “hard wood or steel that is not easily penetrable”, locked with a lock of “sturdy construction”, and bolted to the wall or floor if it weighs less than 150kilograms when empty.

Hesaid the outdated regulations meant guns were often kept in an old-school locker fastened with a padlock. Tools that could be used to open the safe were often kept in the same shed.

“On a good day, I can rip that open with my teeth.”

There are about 200,000 licensed owners who have registered more than 750,000 guns in Victoria, he said.

Police Minister Wade Noonan has backed the Victoria Police review of firearms laws, and, earlier this month, lobbied the Australian Crime Commission to improve its intelligence about where illegal firearms were being sourced, and how many were in circulation.

The State Government moved forward the date that new firearm legislation would come into law after a spate of shootings –culminating in the drive-by murder of Rachad Adra and wounding of his four-year-old son –in October.

The laws will lower the trafficable quantity of unregistered firearms from 10 to three over a 12-month period, reverse the onus under which a person is considered to be in possession of a firearm found on a premises or in a vehicle, meaning that person will have to prove the gun is not theirs to avoid charges.

An offence ofunlawful manufacture of firearmsand an offence of theft of a firearm, with a maximum penalty to 15 years’ jail, will also be introduced.




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