The federal government has already begun work on building a national firearms registry, developing a model and assessing funding options that will be considered by state police commissioners next year.
The details were revealed yesterday by federal Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare, as he tabled the first of several bills aimed at tackling the illegal firearm market in Australia.
He claimed a national firearms registry would “make it easier for law enforcement to track the movement of firearms across state borders and choke off the flow of firearms into the ‘grey’ and criminal markets”.
The move has been flagged for some time, despite controversy over the effectiveness of established firearm registries in preventing crime, the costs of registries and the fact that both New Zealand and, more recently, Canada scrapped their main firearms registries.
At the same time, European nations are moving to establish similar registries, and Germany is aiming to have its in place by 1 January.
The United Nations wants to see registries established around the world, and it appears many member nations, including Australia, are eager to comply with the international push.
Yesterday’s bill will introduce a maximum life sentence for gun-running and allow authorities to confiscate unexplained wealth from convicted criminals, strengthening the ability to seized the assets of organised crime.
The life sentence for firearm trafficking will be applied to cases where at least 50 guns or gun parts are transported illegally, and is therefore unlikely to be a threat to sporting shooters or legitimate dealers.
“Importing or exporting prohibited firearms is covered by offences in the Customs Act 1901,” Mr Clare said. “The Bill creates new offences in the Criminal Code for situations where firearms are trafficked across Australia’s national borders.
“It is designed to send a very strong message that trafficking large numbers of illegal firearms is just as dangerous and potentially deadly as trafficking large amounts of illegal drugs, and the same maximum penalty should apply.”
Mr Clare also said work was being done on other measures, including:
- conducting a national campaign against unlicensed firearms, encouraging people to anonymously dob in people with illegal guns, to be conducted in the first half of next year
- expanding the Australian Ballistics Identification Network nationwide to compile a database of the ballistics of all firearms seized from crime
- developing a National Firearms Identification Database containing key description information for all known firearm models, including images, configuration details and other reference information; the first stage will be completed in February
- plus measures involving the training and deployment of police and customs staff, and the work of the Australian Crime Commission regarding illegal firearms.
Mr Clare also wants states and territories to give police wider powers to search for illegal firearms.
“If we are really serious about getting the quarter of a million illegal firearms off the streets we need to give police more power to go and get them. This means the power to randomly search for firearms,” he said. “South Australia already has laws like this.”