The national agreement targets black-market and unregistered guns but its flaws may engulf legal shooters

National gun crackdown

A national agreement between the Commonwealth, states and territories will clamp down on illegal firearms using a host of measures, but some of these have already been proven flawed and may be detrimental to law-abiding firearm owners.

Federal Minister for Justice and Home Affairs Jason Clare announced he and the country’s various police ministers will take a unified approach to the illegal gun trade and unregistered firearms, and he detailed a scheme that includes the creation of a national gun registry, mandatory life sentences for major gun trafficking, a national awareness campaign about unregistered firearms, and greater police power and resources.

“The reforms are designed to tackle the illicit firearms market from every angle – to seize illegal firearms, to break the code of silence, to improve our ability to trace illegal firearms, to strengthen laws and harden the border,” Mr Clare said.

Shooters are concerned about a number of the measures, especially the national register, which is likely to be incomplete, full of errors and make ‘paper criminals’ out of innocent gun owners.

Their fears are based on past and ongoing problems in existing state registries, which in some cases have seen police pursuing shooters over firearms they had sold years before.

Mr Clare confirmed that the 30 different registers and databases of firearms around Australia had “lost track” of 14,000 gun each year.

Dr Samara McPhedron of Women into Shooting and Hunting (WiSH) has questioned Mr Clare over the feasibility of combining flawed existing registries into a single national database.

She pointed out that the same problem of ‘lost’ guns had six years ago been acknowledged as an administrative error, not guns physically going into the black market.

“The important point is that in the real world, the guns aren’t actually missing,” Dr McPhedron said before spelling out the basis for the concerns of gun owners.

“If Minister Clare had bothered to seek advice from his own Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Council before making these remarks, he would have been informed that he needed to look much more carefully at the details, rather than just accepting what he was told by bureaucrats.

“The fact that he didn’t bother to do this suggests he is not interested in finding out the facts, and only wants some cheap press coverage. Very disappointing.”

She also queried the costs involved. NSW alone is estimated to have spent around $1 billion on its registry with no evidence to say it has been any use in tackling gun crime.

Meanwhile, other aspects of the packages announced by Mr Clare are causing concern.

The presumption of proof will be reversed if one proposal is adopted. A person found in possession of an unregistered gun that had been used to commit a crime could be charged as an accessory to that crime.

The ACT Police Minister, Simon Corbell, said he was worried about the proposal, as well as increasing police powers.

The changes may bring some benefits for shooters. Under improved cross-border tracing abilities, victims of gun theft may have a greater chance of getting their possessions back if the guns are subsequently found interstate.




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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.