Matho’s blogs: National Firearm Theft Monitoring Program

The report by the National Firearm Theft Monitoring Program provides some excellent data not just for authorities but for firearm owners. It’s a warning that theft is real, that even our .22s are highly desirable to thieves and that safe storage is a crucial thing. But it is a flawed report because it raises at least as many questions as it answers.

Like any report based on crime figures, it is only part of a picture. In this case, it tells us nothing other than what the police know, and that’s not enough.

We will never know if our safe storage standards are good enough if we don’t know what the compliance rate is among all firearm owners. The report can tell us that at least 24% of the victims of gun theft weren’t complying with the law, but it’s a useless figure if we have nothing to compare it with.

If, say, 50% of us don’t comply with storage rules, then it’s clearly pointless locking up guns at all. But if 90% of us stick with the law, then those victims of theft who weren’t compliant were clearly asking for trouble. We’d all like to think the latter ratio is the right one, but we can’t be sure.

The people who compiled the report complain that they were not given the information needed to make a judgment call on the quality of storage requirements, even though it was one of the main reasons for its existence. For whatever reasons, the police did not give them that info.

I know the police are busy and tied up in paperwork, so I’m not criticising them, but I do get annoyed that the police commissioners and ministers of this nation variously rant about firearms owners not doing their best to secure firearms yet they don’t help a body they’ve created – directly or indirectly – to collect good data on the subject.

I also wonder about our firearms registries, which are known to be full of errors. A significant number of victims of theft were subsequently charged with being unlicensed or having unregistered weapons. Now, I don’t put it past some people to be a bit slow (“Yes, officer, I know I had it illegally but now it’s been stolen so someone else is the criminal,” perhaps?) but not that many people. I suspect there are shooters out there who’ve had a gun stolen that they legally owned, but anomalies in the registry came back to bite them when they reported the loss.

It’s only a suspicion, though, and it would be almost impossible to find out for sure.

There’s not currently a big push for stricter levels of storage, and police forces have been content to enforce compliancy during blitzes such as WA’s this year. But the worry is that selected figures from the NFTMP report will be used by anti-gun groups, the media and politicians to give us another good kicking.

All that aside, lock up your guns. I’m sure it’s worthwhile, and at the very least it’ll prevent you suffering the insult of being charged after the injury of losing your firearms, if you’re one of the unlucky ones.

And finally, remind our critics that only 3% of stolen guns end up have been involved in committing crimes or were found in the hands of serious criminals. Sure, there’s bound be to more crims out there with stolen guns, but it’s clearly not nearly as big an issue as it’s been made out.


Mick Matheson




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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.