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QLD Australia: Gun ownership explodes
Jason Gregory, 22feb06
GUN ownership is on the rise in Queensland with evidence the tough
introduced after the Port Arthur massacre nearly a decade ago are losing
effectiveness. Despite bans on certain types of weapons and a successful
and amnesty, police figures show there are more firearms in the
than three years ago.
Police Minister Judy Spence yesterday foreshadowed possible changes to the
Weapons Act, to be reviewed this year, saying she was "aware of some
suggestions from police and these will be considered as part of this
Queensland police Weapons Licensing Branch manager, Inspector Mike Crowley,
said gun ownership applications had increased 30 per cent since 2002. Up
of last year's 26,000 applicants were first-timers.
"There has not been a decrease in the number of firearms, but an
increase. It shows
they do not really depreciate and are a resilient commodity," Insp
Crowley said. "There
are still a lot of people buying and selling firearms. Certainly in the
past three years
this has increased."
According to police figures, the number of licensed gun owners dropped
to 153,000 in the past year but the number of weapons increased from
September 2004 to 527,772 last December. And while legal gun ownership
is on the
rise, illegal use of firearms is not decreasing, despite an initial
decline following the
introduction of restrictive laws in 1996. The latest Australian Bureau
of Statistics figures
show the number of robberies involving weapons across the nation is the
same as it
was five years ago.
The number of abductions involving weapons is higher, and while there
has been a
fall in firearm murders, more than a quarter of attempted murders
Bond University criminologist Paul Wilson said: "There are indications
guns are being
used illegally more than a few years ago, and a stark look needs to be
whether firearm laws are losing their effectiveness."
Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg said gun laws were only partially
and supported toughening them to "target the real criminals". Last year
on notice revealed more than 5100 firearms had been reported stolen from
2003, and only 916 were recovered.
Police figures show dealer transactions rose 30 per cent from 50,000 to
70,000 in the
past year, and transactions between licensed shooters and those giving
up their licences
accounted for most of the remaining sales.
Many of the new licensees were sporting shooters applying for multiple
occupations such as security monitoring and farming.
"We recognise the vast majority of firearm owners do not pose a risk to
(but) we need to balance this to ensure we have a system protecting the
potential tragedies such as Port Arthur," Insp Crowley said.
"The Government has put in place what they think is the best approach,
and we will
implement that, (but) we are always looking to improve the system."
In the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, a lone gunman killed 35 people,
Crowley said the importation of after-market military magazines that
could be fitted to
centre-fire rifles acquired legally in Australia had recently been
identified as having "a
potential for misuse".
More than 131,000 guns were surrendered in Queensland from 1996 to 1999.
there were 273,000 licensed firearm owners with an untold number of
weapons. In 1999
then Weapons Licensing Branch head Insp John McCoomb estimated 500,000
Queensland were illegally held.
Sporting Shooters Association of Australia secretary Paul McNabb said
figures reflected those of NSW, and "new gun owners are seen as
participating in a government-sanctioned sport".