Gun crime plummets

Despite the recent increase in drive-by shootings, criminal offences involving firearms in NSW have almost halved over a 17-year period, according to the latest official figures.

The figures, published this week by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, reinforce the fact that the continued political and police pressure on law-abiding firearm owners cannot be justified.

They come weeks after a failed attempt by the NSW Government to impose dramatically tougher regulations on law-abiding firearm owners, clubs, ranges and the trade.

The latest BOCSAR figures show the total number of criminal incidents involving a firearm declined by 48% between 1995 and 2011.

They also show that despite claims by the gun control lobby and Greens that firearm theft is a growing problem, the rate of theft incidents remained “largely similar” during 2009-2011, at 211, 203 and 203 incidents respectively.

In 2009 and 2010, those incidents resulted in the theft of 523 and 543 firearms respectively, while 2011 saw a jump to 640. Other recent statistics have indicated the rate of firearms stolen, per registered gun, in NSW has been steadily dropping for a decade.

The rate of firearm theft was significantly lower in Sydney than the rest of NSW in 2011, at 0.8 and 6.4 per 100,000 population, respectively. This implies regional gun owners face a much higher risk of having their firearms stolen than Sydney’s gun owners, but the BOCSAR figures do not take into account the rate of gun ownership in Sydney compared with the rest of the state.

Firearms are most frequently stolen from residences (79%, 2011) and rifles were the most stolen firearm (66%, 2011). The latter figure is comparable with national figures released by the Australian Institute of Criminology, which also indicated Category A firearms accounted for 61% of stolen guns.

The murder rate involving firearms had fluctuated since 1995, the worst year in the study with 29 deaths, and in 2011 it was at the lowest point, at 11. The figures do not reveal whether or not the guns used were registered and legally owned.

Shoot with intent (eg, to murder) rose from 63 to 117 incidents between 1995 and 2001, then roughly halved again by 2011.

Similarly, the number of incidents of unlawfully discharge firearm more than doubled from 1995 to 2001 but by 2011 was 24% lower than it had been in 1995.

Interestingly, those last two sets of figures indicate the 1996 gun laws instigated by John Howard had no immediate impact on serious gun crime, and bring into question claims by the gun-control lobby that they had any direct effect on gun crime at all.

Robberies involving a gun had halved since 1995, a change BOCSAR’s Dr Don Weatherburn said was largely because of factors like greater security, less cash being kept or transported, and a reduction in heroin supplies.

In contrast, ‘drive-by’ incidents have increased by 144% since 1995, from 41 incidents to 100 incidents in 2011, peaking at 116 in 2001. Despite the massive publicity around them, drive-by shootings in 2011 were not as bad as they had been a decade earlier.

View the full report on the BOCSAR website.




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.