Police damned over gun mismanagement

An auditor-general’s report has confirmed what shooters have known for years: Western Australia’s police have failed dismally to manage firearms licensing and ownership.

WA police are “unable to effectively manage firearms licensing and regulation,” Auditor General Colin Murphy said in a scathing report.

“As a result of our findings, we have no confidence in the accuracy of basic information on the number of people licensed to possess firearms or the number of licensed or unlicensed firearms in Western Australia.”

Shooters have been frustrated for years by errors in police data, some of which have resulted in confiscation of firearms and even charges being laid against people who had done nothing wrong.

Newly elected Shooters & Fishers MP Rick Mazza said the auditor general’s findings were no surprise.

“The report highlights the inefficiencies of the department in not only maintaining effective administration of the registry but also the inefficient manner and delays in which it processes applications,” he said.

The auditor general’s report comes days before licensing fees for WA shooters are due to skyrocket, further angering shooters.

Mr Murphy confirmed that the problems are long-standing.

“We conducted performance audits on the management and regulation of firearms in 2000, 2004 and 2009, and in each report we identified various problems with the systems and processes for the licensing and management of firearms in Western Australia,” he said.

“What this latest audit shows is that WAP still has a long way to go to ensure the Firearms Register and supporting systems are operating effectively.”

This was despite the 2009 report being so critical that WAP spent $720,000 in 2010/11 on a project that it claimed had made its firearms systems “stable, satisfactory and functional”.

In this year’s report, Mr Murphy said he’d found more than 25,000 examples where WA Firearms Register data could not be reconciled with the national CRIMTRAC database.

He also cited 988 cases were firearms had effectively disappeared from official view after not being recovered from deceased estates.

There were also 300 cases in which people not fit to own a firearm had a gun registered to them, yet police checked on about half those people and found not one had a gun.

The report also found the Firearms Registry System “does not have the capability to produce simple management reports”.

“We requested verification of previously reported firearms statistics,” he said. “WAP informed us that this report would take more than five working days to process and indicated that they could not guarantee the accuracy of the information requested.”

The police did not properly protect some firearm owners’ details and had no way of tracking unauthorised access to the Firearm Register’s database, raising grave concerns about security for shooters.

The auditor general found many more issues that he said the police must deal with.

The police acknowledged the problems and said they were aware of them, but were looking towards the new licensing and registry system that is being developed.

“Full implementation of the new system should address these issues, however is dependent on funds being made available,” they told the AG.




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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.