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Police set to target firearm storage

9 March 2008
By Jason Dowling


Victorian police are planning a crackdown on gun owners. They are set to check whether 18,000 of the state's registered gun owners have stored their firearms properly.

The crackdown comes as gun-related murders and gun theft have declined dramatically since the gun-law reforms after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

New research by the Australian Institute of Criminology shows that the theft of firearms has dropped 72% since 1995-96, with gun-related homicides also down. Guns now rank behind knives and physical assault as the most common method of murder in Australia.

Police say the decline in gun thefts and murders is due to tougher laws on the use, ownership and storage of firearms. The planned crackdown is to ensure the trend continues, police say.

In Victoria there are still more than half a million registered firearms.

A research analyst at the Australian Institute of Criminology, Dr Samantha Bricknell, said that since the early 1990s firearm homicides in Australia had dropped by about 46% and gun thefts had also fallen.

The majority of guns were stolen from homes, most of them "targeted thefts", she said, but very few of the stolen firearms had been used in crimes.

She said the main firearms owned in Australia were .22 rifles, bolt-action rifles and 12-gauge shotguns.

Victoria Police Superintendent Wayne Ashley said 185,442 Victorians had gun licences, 10,000 fewer than just six years ago. This was despite the number of registered firearms in Victoria slowly rising from 558,000 in 2002 to 586,292 this year.

Only 55% of weapons stolen in Australia were properly secured in a firearms safe or secure cabinet. In 9% of cases, firearms were left in a vehicle and in 7% of cases had been kept in a (usually) unlocked cupboard or wardrobe. Owners did not know where they had left their firearm in 7% of cases.

Superintendent Ashley said police would move to stronger enforcement of gun laws. He said it was not a "Big Brother" approach but rather police working with the community to ensure community safety.

The Department of Justice has released a discussion paper with suggested changes to gun laws, with new regulations due by April.


Guns in Australia

  • 18,000 Victorians to have their gun storage checked this year.
  • Theft of firearms down by 72% in Australia since 1995-96.
  • Murders using firearms down by 46 % since early 1990s.
  • 586,292 registered firearms in Victoria.
  • 185,442 gun licences in Victoria -- 10,000 fewer than six years ago.

  • Source: Victoria Police and Australian Institute of Criminology


    This story can be found in The Sunday Age - 9 March 2008.

    © Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.