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National Firearms Amnesty. Success or failure?

Narooma Sports and Recreation Centre gun amnesty banner

Comment by Susan Cruttenden.

THERE ARE SOME important questions that need to be answered before the success or failure of the National Gun Amnesty can be properly determined.

The terms of the amnesty varied from one jurisdiction to another, the ACT being one of the few with a social conscience prepared to accept outlandish weapons and bows and arrows for confiscation, and not willing to authorise the on-selling of surrendered firearms.

A report on the results from the various jurisdictions has been issued by the Federal Government concluding with the statement: “The Amnesty has resulted in a safer, more secure Australian community”.

But has it?

Certainly not from the viewpoint of the citizens of Narooma, where it is likely that gun dealers will  have more guns to sell to more recreational hunters at the annual festival of animal killing — HuntFest, on crown land in the heart of  Narooma. HuntFest is sponsored by the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA).

The report on the nationwide results of the amnesty recorded how many guns had been sold during the three-month amnesty (4,120), but it did not report how many firearms dealers acquired during this time with a view to selling-on to other prospective shooters at gun shops, arms fairs, on-line, or at events such as Narooma’s festival of hunting.

North Durras kangaroo arrow victimGuns handed in to police stations during the time of the amnesty were to be scrapped or registered and returned to their owners at little or no cost, but guns surrendered to approved gun dealers could be purchased by them for re-sale to another buyer.

How did it come about that gun dealers were given such an essential role to play in administering the gun amnesty, when they clearly had a vested interest in its outcome?

The American Rifle association attributed this involvement to lobbying by the SSAA.

“Is an unused gun in grandad’s attic safer when it is brought down and registered?

Thousands of guns have been registered as a result of the latest firearms amnesty, but does that make them any safer? Is an unused gun hidden away in grandad’s attic any safer when it is brought down and registered? The Chief Justice Minister Michael Keenan admitted to the Australian Broadcast Company that “it’s probably not going to be the case that we will have hardened criminals who have made a big effort to get hold of illegal guns handing them in.”

Remember why we have a national agreement

The National Firearms Agreement was made by all states in 1996 as a result of the community’s shocked reaction to the Port Arthur massacre. Its successful adoption owed a great deal to the strong leadership of then Prime Minister John Howard, and depended on state co-operation and enforcement. The terms of the Agreement are not legally enforceable or protected by the federal government.

As a result they have varied widely in the ways they are interpreted and have been steadily eroded for political purposes, in order to satisfy the wishes of the powerful gun lobby backed by the SSAA. Was the complacent attitude Prime Minister Turnbull showed in America when the strength of our gun laws was held up in comparison to American mayhem justified, or are we in fact, as the evidence shows, seeing our gun laws eroded and access to and ownership of guns made easier?

Tim Fischer, former deputy leader who helped Prime Minister Howard achieve his sweeping gun reforms after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre has warned against the “chipping away” at gun ownership rules.

Some of the “chipping away” listed by Gun Control Australia (GCA) in their latest report include:

  • allowing minors to possess firearms when the 1976 agreement states licences should be restricted to persons over 18;
  • use of silencers and of semi-automatic weapons;
  • no limit on the amount of ammunition that can be purchased;
  • the on-going reluctance of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria to agree to a National Firearms requirement for an effective national firearm registry.

Gun Control Australia’s chairperson, Samantha Lee said: “The national firearms agreement is haemorrhaging because the states and territories are legislating it away in return for gun lobby votes and funding”.

After careful investigation GCA is calling for a referendum to make gun control laws a federal responsibility and to prevent the wreckage of the 1996 agreement that has been brought about as a result of years of political pressure from the gun lobby.

Strong action needs to be taken by concerned citizens to prevent the insidious growth of an American-style gun culture.

ABOVE: Banner outside the Narooma Sports and Recreation Centre. Image supplied.
INSET: North Durras kangaroo — yes it did recover thanks to being caught and given treatment. Photo by WIRES.


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