Why the national gun registry is a dud

The national firearm registry is looking more like a government PR exercise than an effective means to tackle crime, as more details emerge of its flawed foundations.

The processes behind it are also coming under question as discredited information is used to justify the registry.

The proposed National Firearms Register, as federal Minister for Home Affairs Jason Clare labelled it, appears to be the same as the National Firearms Management System (NFMS) that was rejected five years ago under the Howard government, despite the former PM’s strident anti-gun views.

A ministerial advisory group representing shooters helped to demonstrate to the nation’s police ministers that the NFMS would fail, but the Sporting Shooters and Firearms Advisory Council was disbanded soon afterwards.

The bureaucracy has continued to push for the NFMS/NFR while shooters were excluded from the process. In the absence of shooting experts at the table, police and bureaucrats who want a registry in place have been able to repeat previously discredited claims and promote ‘facts’ that were found to be based on rubbery figures and wild assumptions.

They have persuaded Mr Clare to champion their agenda – using the same arguments that failed them in 2007.

The establishment of the new Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Council a few months ago appears to have come at a crucial time, allowing shooters to raise these issues as Mr Clare begins introducing new federal firearms legislation.

Mr Clare recently claimed in parliament that thousands of firearms where being diverted from legal ownership into a ‘grey market’, when in fact the problem was simply that existing registries were so flawed they had lost track of the guns, which were still in the hands of their rightful owners.

Yet Mr Clare appears to be so persuaded by the data that he says these same firearms “constitute a major source” for criminals.

His claim was based on data compiled in support of the NFMS by a consulting firm, the NOUS Group, which the SSFAC in 2007 showed were misleading, unreliable and even incorrect.

The NOUS data included a statement that registered or previously registered firearms made up 50% of those recovered from crime scenes, but it did not clarify the fact that a stolen registered firearm is automatically part of a ‘crime’ if it is recovered. No distinction was made between firearms used in a crime and those that were the targets of crime.

There were many other examples, and the bottom line was that the NFMS was deemed by the SSFAC to be incapable of achieving its goals, and the nation’s police ministers opted not to pursue it.

NOUS would not reveal the costs of the NFMS, nor a cost-benefit analysis, but separate estimates put its cost at hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr Clare has now engaged NOUS again to prepare a model for the NFR and look at how it could be funded.




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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.