Posted: 1/2/2004 7:39:25 AM EDT
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT
Gun crimes on the increase
Reporter: Andrew Geoghegan
TRACY BOWDEN: Drive by shootings, revenge killings, and armed hold-ups.
Gun crime has become an almost daily occurrence in Australia. Yesterday a
17-year-old girl was shot in the shoulder during a security robbery in Sydney.
As police and state governments try to curb the escalating violence, anti-gun
groups want to know why there appear to be more guns than ever in Australia
just seven years after the Port Arthur massacre. The Federal Government's
gun buy back scheme cost $500 million and yielded more than 600,000 long
arm guns, yet gun control groups estimate there are more than 300,000 hand
guns among Australians, most of them illegal.
Andrew Geoghegan reports.
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: No longer are criminals who have turned some of Aust-
ralia's suburban streets into shooting galleries simply motivated by revenge or
NEWSREEL: Terrified Christmas shoppers ran for cover in a busy Sydney mall
today when armed men bailed up and robbed two security guards. The motives
for some gun crimes now appears to be the guns themselves.
NEWSREEL: Police say the thieves stole up to $20,000 and the guard's two
SAMANTHA LEE, NATIONAL COALITION FOR GUN CONTROL: It's an indication
that demand for hand guns in the criminal market is increasing and not only that
but the demand and supply is coming from the legal market, from security guards
who have become sitting ducks and the public when it comes to stealing a hand-
JOE CRLJEN, FORMER SECURITY GUARD: If they can get away with taking guns
off security guards, it is a big bonus for them so they can use them again in differ-
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Joe Crljen used to work as a security guard but he has
walked away from the industry, worried that he was putting his life on the line every
day. As soon as you put a gun on your belt, do you think it makes you a target?
JOE CRLJEN: You don't think about it but in the back of your mind it's always the
thought because it can happen.
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Joe Crljen is one of dozen of guards who have been left
traumatised after being attacked. In just the past four months in Sydney, bandits
have reaped a bounty of more than 60 hand guns after a series of assaults and
robberies on security guards and their firms.
JOHN WATKINS, NSW POLICE MINISTER: In Sydney at the moment there have been
a number of crimes in cash in transit targeting large amounts of money transported
around Sydney. After the cash has been stolen there also has been stealing of fire-
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Ironically, NSW Police Minister John Watkins attributes the
increased number of hand guns thefts to successful policing.
JOHN WATKINS: As they have tightened gun possession over recent years, that the
criminals are moving on to other targets to get their hands on to firearms. Therefore,
there has been some targeting in recent months of soft targets within the security
BARRY SMITH, GUN DEALERS ASSOCIATION: It's a major problem involved in part
by the fact that guns are harder to steal from the shooting fraternity, the collectors
and of course the dealers and the average shooter because of the new requirements,
the stricter safe keeping requirements that are now in place.
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: But Barry Smith, president of the Gun Dealers Association
of NSW, maintains if there's a demand for guns, there'll always be a supply.
BARRY SMITH: We hear anecdotal evidence day in and day out of people simply
getting guns on the black market and certainly that seems to be the case. The
number that the police are finding and confiscating certainly suggests that that is
what is occurring.
SAMANTHA LEE: The answer is, one, for the Commonwealth and the State to ban
hand guns. The State can ban hand guns any time they want to. They could have
done it yesterday. They can do it today.
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Anti-gun campaigner Samantha Lee asserts that the Institute
of Criminology's recent study on the movement of hand guns in Australia shows a ban
would hit the black market hard.
SAMANTHA LEE: What they found, the majority of firearms are coming from legal
market into the criminal market. That means that where criminals are getting their
guns is by stealing them from the legal gun owner's home, from firearms dealers and
also from police stations. So it's actually by reducing the number of guns in the legal
market that you would stop a leaking tap of hand guns into the criminal market.
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: However, the NSW Government believes a ban would only
take guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens.
JOHN WATKINS: There has been a trade of illegal hand guns into Australia for a
number of years through our ports, coming in from overseas. The police advise me
this is happening. We are doing all we can in NSW to screw down on the ownership
of hand guns. We're taking a large number of hand guns out of the community, but
I can't close the customs barrier.
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: Hand guns are obviously involved in many of these crimes.
Why not ban hand guns?
JOHN WATKINS: That question is asked especially in relation to the cash in transit
industry. Very strong advice to me from the industry that hand guns provide a level
of deterrent in protecting cash. Now, in recent times, especially, for example, yester-
day, it did not in that situation. But how many more robberies would there be of cash
in transit if there was no protection from hand guns? Impossible to answer.
NEWSREEL: More than 30 police-style hand guns could be on the streets of Sydney
after they were stolen from a security company.
ANDREW GEOGHEGAN: The ease with which criminals have been stealing guns from
security firms has prompted the NSW Government to crack down on the security
industry's access to guns. That may make guards feel even more vulnerable at a
time when they believe their employers are more interested in saving money than
JOE CRLJEN: Security companies are not doing enough to make sure that money
pick ups and deliveries are done in a safer way. The job of security guard is getting
harder and harder every week.
Ahhhh ban security guards from having guns... it's for the children.