South Australian police admit they are “strictly enforcing any regulatory breaches” of the state’s Firearms Act so that they can “limit the criminal use of firearms in the community”.
The admission comes in the SA police (SAPOL) annual report, which also says “all police jurisdictions are … working together in a multifaceted approach involving law enforcement operations and systems; legislative and regulatory reforms”.
The statements sound another ominous warning that law-abiding firearm owners are in for more punitive regulation and zealous enforcement.
However, the report contains no data that suggests a focus on regulatory breaches by license holders is having any positive impact on major crime statistics, and while the report mentions criminal gangs in context of gun crime, it does not refer to LAFOs at all.
The annual report reveals a small drop in “offences of violence where a firearm or replica firearm had been used or displayed, or where a victim believed a concealed firearm may have been involved” since 2008/09, from 249 to 237 in 2011/12 – less than 5%.
Meanwhile SAPOL’s “proactively detected” breaches of the Firearms Act rose by over 13%, from 907 in 2008/09 to 1030 in 2011/12.
The report makes a number of references to the problem of “serious gun crime”, citing the “growing threat and incidence of serious firearm offences, where criminals including [outlaw motorcycle gang] members are using firearms when committing violent offences in the community”.
In total, since the previous year, the report tallies an increase in the number of firearms and other weapons offences (the two are not separated) from 3891 to 4138. The report does not indicate how many were “serious” compared to regulatory breaches of the Act.
However, given the very small reduction in serious offences since 2008/09, it may be that the increased number of offences is a result of the force’s greater focus on breaches of regulations.
This would appear to be backed up by a slight increase in the ‘clearance rate’ of firearms and weapons offences, because a breach of regulations is easier to ‘solve’ than criminal offences.
The report does show that robberies with a firearm have dropped significantly since last year, from 85 to 66. Of these, only 23 were cleared, with 21 arrests made.
SAPOL says violent firearms offences have become “more visible, with firearms being used in entertainment districts or for drive-by shootings”.