Apr
12

Brief on the Senate,Legal and Constitutional Affairs Report on Australian Gun Laws.

 

Greens Agree That Gun Control Works. WHY?

Greens Agree That Gun Control Works. WHY?

 

Brief on the Senate, Legal and Constitutional Affairs Report on Australian Gun Laws.

The Senate

Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee

‘Ability of Australian law enforcement authorities to eliminate gun-related violence in the community”

April 2015

Commonwealth of Australia 2015

ISBN 978-1-76010-187-9

Two Reports  With two sets of recommendations,

One from the Chair and one from the Majority of Committee Members.

The first set of recommendations are

Recommendations From The Chair

Recommendation One

7.16 The committee recommends the Commonwealth government provide

funding to allow programs, such as the National Firearms Monitoring Program

and the National Firearm Theft Monitoring Program, and reports, such as those

in the Firearm Theft in Australia series, to continue on an ongoing basis.

Recommendation 2

7.17 The committee further recommends the Australian Institute of

Criminology conduct within three years a review of current data collection and

reporting arrangements, with a particular focus on:

the need for more accurate data on firearm thefts, the recovery of stolen

firearms and seizures of illegally imported firearms;

„ the quality and comparability of data provided to Commonwealth

agencies by state and territory police; and greater inter-agency co-operation with regards to data sharing.

Recommendation 3

7.25 The committee recommends that the National Firearms Agreement be

updated to implement nationally consistent regulation in the following areas:

firearms, firearm parts and firearm accessories; ammunition; and

the storage of firearms.

Recommendation 4

7.28 The committee recommends that the Commonwealth government,

together with state and territory governments, establish national standards for

the security of membership data held by gun clubs.

Recommendation 5

7.33 The committee recommends that an ongoing, Australia-wide gun

amnesty is implemented, with consideration given to ways in which this can be

done without limiting the ability of police to pursue investigative leads for serious

firearm-related crimes.

Recommendation 6

7.39 The committee recommends that all jurisdictions update their firearm

data holdings and ensure the data is transferred to the National Firearms

Interface.

Recommendation 7

7.44 The committee recommends that Australian governments investigate the

requirement for uniform regulations in all jurisdictions covering the

manufacture of 3D printed firearms and firearm parts.

Recommendation 8

7.48 The committee recommends that Australian governments continue to

monitor the risks posed by 3D manufacturing in relation to the manufacture of

firearms and consider further regulatory measures if the need arises.

Recommendation 9

7.51 The committee recommends that Australian governments consider

committing further funding and resourcing to assist in implementing the

preceding recommendations.

By Senator Penny Wright
Penny Green Tyrant small

Chair

Senator the Hon Joe Ludwig

Labor Senator for Queensland

(So you know who not to vote for)
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And then on page 95

Structure of the report

1.8 This report is the report of the majority Senators of the committee who

actually attended hearings and private meetings of the committee and is presented as a

majority-alternative to the Chair/Labor’s Report of the Legal and Constitutional

Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into the ability of Australian law enforcement

authorities to eliminate gun-related violence in the community.

1.9 It is endorsed by Senators from the Liberal Party, National Party and Liberal

Democratic Party, comprising a majority of those who attended the Committee’s

hearings (The Majority)

Senator the Hon Ian Macdonald

Deputy Chair

Senator Linda Reynolds

Liberal Senator for Western Australia

Senator Bridget McKenzie

Nationals Senator for Victoria

Senator David Leyonhjelm

Liberal Democrats Senator for New South Wales.

So now you know who to Vote For.

Their findings were highly critical of the recommendations of the chair and found that there was a lack of evidence to support those recommendations, they issued a new set of Recommendations which as they are the majority replace the first set.

Response to Chair’s Recommendations

1.213 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry do not agree with Recommendation 1 and Recommendation 2 of the Chair’s report: the AIC should not receive additional funding for further research programs.

1.214 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry do not agree with Recommendation 3 of the Chair’s report: these matters should remain responsibility for State and Territory governments.

1.215 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry do not agree with Recommendation 4 of the Chair’s report: membership data held by gun clubs should remain a responsibility of State and Territory governments.

1.216 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry do not agree with Recommendation 7 of the Chair’s report: new regulations do not need to be introduced to cover the manufacture of 3D printed firearms and firearm parts at this point in time.

1.217 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry do not support Recommendation 9 of the Chair’s report and instead urge the government to consider funding initiatives that educate the wider public on safe use of firearms.

1.218 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry support Recommendation 5 of the Chair’s report, that an ongoing Australia-wide gun amnesty could potentially reduce the number of illicit firearms in the community, especially those firearms that were not given up as part of the 1996 buyback. It is, however, noted that criminals are unlikely give up any firearms.

1.219 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry support Recommendation 6 of the Chair’s report: jurisdictions have already agreed to update their firearm data holdings and transfer it to the National Firearms Interface.

1.220 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry support Recommendation 8 of the Chair’s report and agree that it is important to continue monitoring the risks posed by 3D manufacturing of firearms

Additional. By majority of Senators attending the inquiry Recommendations

Recommendation 1

1.221 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry recommend that the Commonwealth commission a study into the social, economic and environmental benefits of hunting across Australia, similar to the report that was released by the Victorian Government in 2013.

Recommendation 2

1.222 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry recommend the Commonwealth establish a formal mechanism for industry and firearm user groups to be consulted on issues relating to firearms regulation.

Recommendation 3

1.223 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry recommend the Commonwealth continue to pursue improvements in border control for detecting illegal imports of firearms and firearms parts.

Recommendation 4

1.224 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry recommend the Commonwealth review its contribution to firearms regulation in the context of the Reform of the Federation White Paper.

150

Recommendation 5

1.225 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry recommend State and territory governments investigate avenues to deregulate the firearm industry to ease the economic burden on governments, industry and legal firearm users.

These recommendations relied on evidence submitted such as this.

Page 104

1.42 A number of other submissions argued the opposite, that Australia’s firearm law reforms had made no difference to the firearm death rate. Among them, Mr Tom Vangelovski noted that:

While ignoring that the overall Australian homicide rates has remained statistically stable at its historical rate since 1915, gun control advocates have claimed that homicide by firearm has decreased (implying that being murdered by other means is somehow preferable).33

1.43 He also noted:

Another important comparison is Australia’s violent crime rate to that of individual American states (Figure 4). Vermont has some of the most liberal gun laws in the US, in that they virtually do not exist. Its residents are free to own and use whatever firearms they deem necessary, so long as they are not misused for criminal purposes. However, its violent crime rates are radically lower than Australia’s Its homicide rate is the same (at 1.3 per 100.000). Overall, you are 1.5 times more likely to be the victim of a home invasion, 3.5 times more likely to be robbed, 4 times more likely to be raped and 8 times more likely to be assaulted than in Vermont.

Another interesting comparison is Texas. While its gun laws are much more liberal than Australia’s, they are slightly more stringent than in Vermont. However, even in Texas you are 2.5 times less likely to be the victim of a violent crime than in Australia.34

1.44 Dr Samara McPhedran noted :

A useful demonstration of how prohibition can be expected to impact illicit firearms use is found in the United Kingdom (UK). In 1997, the UK banned private ownership of all cartridge ammunition handguns (whether semi-automatic or otherwise).

As such, the UK provides real-world data about the impact that a ‘prohibition policy’ can be expected to have on illegal firearms use. This information is particularly valuable because it is drawn from an applied setting, rather than being based on theory or statistical modelling.

Because all legal handgun ownership was banned, rather than just certain types of handgun, the UK policy also represents a “maximum policy impact” scenario – that is, the greatest effect that could be reasonably expected to arise from prohibition.

If the policy was successful, then it would be expected that the number of recorded crimes in the UK involving the use of handguns would decline sharply after 1997.

Handgun crimes rose sharply after total prohibition of legal ownership, reaching a peak in the early 2000s. The number of handgun crimes has consistently remained higher than it was at the time of handgun prohibition.

33 Tom Vangelovski, Submission 206.

34 Dr Samara McPhedran, Submission 88.

Even allowing for the possibility of a ‘lag’ between policy implementation and policy impact, it is obvious that the prohibition policy did not impact on illicit possession and use of handguns. According to the Home Office, from 2001/2002 to 2010/2011, handguns have consistently been the most common type of firearm used in crime.35

1.45 Mr William Woolmore, a former member of the Firearms Appeals Tribunal for the Victorian Justice Department, noted:

There has been a steady decline in gun related deaths in Australia since 1980 and, as expected, the rate of decline increased marginally following the new gun laws introduced in 1996 but this was due solely to a reduction in gun suicides. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the rate of gun murders in the few years after 1996 was actually higher than the equivalent period before 1996. While gun violence has been steadily declining there has been a substantial growth in total violence, with knife murders exceeding gun murders by up to 4 to 1 in some years (The latest AIC figure given in 2013 was 47 knife and 24 gun; worth comparing with 27 children murdered by one or both of their parents).36

1.46 Dr John Lott noted:

Prior to 1996, there was already a clear downward in firearm homicides, and this pattern continued after the buyback. It is hence difficult to link the decline to the buyback.

Again, as with suicides, both non-firearm and firearm homicides fell by similar amounts. In fact, the trend in non-firearms homicides shows a much larger decline between the pre- and post-buyback periods. This suggests that crime has been falling for other reasons.

Note that the change in homicides doesn’t follow the change in gun ownership – there is no increase in homicides as gun ownership gradually increased.37

35 Homicides, Firearm Offences and Intimate Violence 2010/11: Supplementary Volume 2 to Crime in England and Wales 2010/11. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/116483/hosb0212.pdf

36 Mr William Woolmore, Submission 383.

37 Dr John Lott, Submission 394.

ADDITIONAL REMARKS

1.152 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry welcome the Chair’s comments that it was not the intention of the inquiry to target law-abiding firearms owners through this inquiry. The Committee heard evidence that lawful use of firearms has a wide range of economic, social and environmental benefits to the Australian community which deserve to be promoted to counteract the myths about them which are perpetuated by some in the community.

1.153 One of the difficulties encountered by this inquiry has been the inability of the Committee to ascertain, with any degree of certainty, where the majority of the illicit guns originate and the size of the illegal gun market.

1.154 Notwithstanding that difficulty, the evidence provided by witnesses including law enforcement agencies, confirmed that most guns used in the commission of crime do not originate from licensed firearm owners.

1.155 No case was made to the committee for any increased regulation around gun ownership laws. In particular there was no evidence to show that:

banning semi-automatic handguns would have any material effect on the number of illegally held firearms in Australia;

stricter storage requirements and the use of electronic alarm systems for guns stored in homes would have any impact on gun-related violence; and

anomalies in federal, state and territory laws regarding the ownership, sale, storage and transit across state boundaries of legal firearms has any material impact on gun-related violence in the community.

1.156 It is also unfortunate that the joint report of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and NSW Premier and Cabinet on the Martin Place siege was referenced in the Chair’s report, since it was not mentioned by any witness or considered by the committee as part of this inquiry.

Misinformation not helpful

1.157 Despite the acknowledged deficiencies in the data available, the Chair of the inquiry has unfortunately made comments in the media about the size of the illegal gun market and its impact on crime in the community. Many of the claims made were not substantiated by the evidence to the inquiry, particularly regarding the source of illegal guns and legal gun owners in Australia.

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1.158 Claims made in the media by the Chair, which The majority of Senators attending the inquiry believe are not substantiated by the evidence, include:”most illegal guns are not trafficked into Australia, but stolen from registered owners;151 and many illicit firearms are actually stolen from legitimate sources or taken from the grey market, including the gun used in the Sydney siege”.152

1.159 The hypothesis that illegal guns are mainly stolen from registered gun owners was not supported by the evidence presented to the Committee.

Data Deficiencies – The size and operation of the illicit firearms trade

1.160 The Committee heard evidence from a number of organisations in Australian jurisdictions about the size and distribution of the illegal firearms market within Australia. The lack of reliable data on the size of the illicit (or black) and grey market means that currently it is impossible to accurately assess the extent of the problem.

1.161 The Sporting Shooter’s Association of Australia asserted that the data presented by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) and Australian Crime Commission (ACC) are unreliable because they:

have been supplied, unintentionally, with data, contaminated at best, and rubbish at worst, from South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria¡ skewing results and leading to a misunderstanding of the legal and illegal firearms landscape.153

1.162 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry do not accept evidence provided by the ACC which estimated the number of illegal firearms in the community at 260 000, including 250 000 long-arms and 10 000 handguns.154

1.163 This figure is taken from the Final Report of the National Investigation into the Illegal Firearms Market. These estimated 260 000 illicit firearms were supposedly based on a tracing analysis of 3186 weapons seized by law enforcement agencies.155

1.164 There are issues with this data that bring its reliability and validity into serious question. Firstly, this sample size was revealed to be much smaller than the ACC report first indicated based on 2119 firearms not 3186.156 In addition, it is unclear

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151 Media Release, Senator Penny Wright, Abbott’s mandatory sentencing plan won’t fix gun crime, 4 July 2014 at http://penny-wright.greensmps.org.au (accessed 9 April 2015).

152 Media Release, Senator Penny Wright, Mandatory minimums wrong way to address gun crime, 15 March 2015 at http://penny-wright.greensmps.org.au (accessed 9 April 2015).

153 Mr Geoffrey Jones, Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia, Committee Hansard, 31 October 2014, p. 10.

154 Mr Paul Jevtovic, Australian Crime Commission, Committee Hansard, 31 October 2014, p. 34.

155 Media Release, The Hon. Jason Clare MP, Final Report of the National Investigation into the Illegal Firearms Market, 29 June 2012.

156 National Firearm Dealers Association Inc., Submission 85, p. 6.

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whether a third of these firearms can be classed as illicit considering 33.5 per cent of the traces had an unknown method of diversion due to insufficient information.157

1.165 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry agree with Mr Rossi, President of the National Firearms Dealers Association:

“Policy and research ought to be underpinned by comprehensive, accurate, verifiable and transparent data. We believe that any policy based inquiry must be built on these foundations. In the case of firearm and shooter issues, this is not the case. That includes the issues that are the subject of this inquiry.”158

1.166 Accordingly it is not advisable for the Committee to make any recommendations based on flawed evidence. Further developments in policy should be focussed on further research in this area.

Data Deficiencies – Theft of firearms

1.167 The data on the number of stolen firearms provided by the AIC is dependent on the reliability of data provided to it by the state authorities, which cannot be relied upon for the following reasons:

Some jurisdictions did not provide data for all collection years or did not provide the full complement of data requested for individual years. For example, the data for stolen firearms excludes Western Australia for 2007-08;159

Victoria inadvertently recorded firearm parts as actual stolen firearms;160 and

The numbers were inverted by accident to read 41 300 handguns rather than 14 300 being licensed in South Australia.161

1.168 There was no evidence presented to the Committee which demonstrated a significant problem with stolen firearms being used for criminal activity:

Data provided by state and territory police indicated that firearms from a very small percentage of theft incidents (less than 5 per cent) reported in the four year period 2005-06 to 2008-09 were subsequently used to commit a criminal offence or found in the possession of a person charged with a non-firearm related criminal offence;162 and157

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Media Release, The Hon. Jason Clare MP, Final Report of the National Investigation into the Illegal Firearms Market, 29 June 2012.

158

Mr Luca Scribani, President, National Firearm Dealers Association Inc., Committee Hansard, Tuesday 14 October 2014, p. 28.

159 Australian Institute of Criminology, Submission 76, p. 9.

160 Mr Geoffrey Jones, Sporting Shooter’s Association, Committee Hansard, 31 October 2014, p. 13.

161 Sporting Shooter’s Association, Submission 58, p. 4.

162 Australian Institute of Criminology, Submission 76, p. 10.

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there are very few firearms that have been stolen and subsequently used in illegal acts or established as coming from a pathway from a registered firearm owner, through theft, into a recorded crime.163

1.169 During the public hearing, Dr John Lott gave evidence in relation to an AIC report which showed that one in every 2500 guns were stolen, a rate of four hundredths of one per cent. Of the 664 guns stolen as described in the report, three were used in the commission of a crime. Dr Lott argued that by any measure the costs of firearms regulation greatly outweighs any expected benefits.164

1.170 According to the ACC an average of 1545 firearms per annum was reported stolen during the period 2004-05 to 2008-9. The majority of reported stolen firearms are rifles, followed by shotguns. Handguns generally make up less than 10 per cent of stolen firearms.165

1.171 The committee heard that even though the current price of an illegal handgun was up to $15 000, there had been no rise in gun thefts from licensed gun owners.166

The Law Enforcement Response to Illegal Firearms

1.172 Some witnesses claimed that firearms reform in Australia over the last two decades had helped to significantly reduce the misuse of firearms with firearm related homicide in Australia down from 31.9 per cent in 1998 to 18.9 per cent in 2013.167

1.173 Others asserted that similar declines had been observed in countries that did not adopt Australia’s approach to gun control, including New Zealand.

1.174 Moreover, it is noted that knives continue to be the most commonly used weapon in homicides, not guns, with 42 per cent of all homicide incidents in 2010¡V11 involving knives/sharp instruments compared with 14 per cent involving the use of a firearm.168

1.175 Since 1996 there has been a national approach to the regulation of firearms, resulting from the 1996 National Firearms Agreement, the 1996 Firearms Buyback, the 2002 National Firearms Trafficking Policy Agreement and the National Handgun Control Agreement. This has led to a large degree of consistency between Australian

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163 Mr Gary Bryant, General Manager, Firearm Safely and Training Council, Committee Hansard, 13 October 2014, p. 5.

164 Dr John Lott, Crime Prevention Resource Centre, Committee Hansard, 31 October 2014, p. 3.

165 Australian Crime Commission, Submission 75, p. 4.

166 Det. Chief Supt Ken Finch, Organised Crime Directorate NSW Police, Committee Hansard, 13 October 2014, p. 45.

167 Ms Catherine Smith, Attorney General’s Department, Committee Hansard, 31 October 2014, p. 52.

168 Willow Bryant & Tracy Cussen, Homicide in Australia: 2010¡V11 to 2011¡V12: National Homicide Monitoring Program report, Australian Institute of Criminology, Monitoring Report 23, p. vi.

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jurisdictions in dealing with illegal firearms. In their submission the Attorney General’s Department stated that:

the adoption of the Agreements by the States and Territories represents a significant achievement in developing a consistent national approach to the regulation of firearms and firearm-related articles.169

1.176 The claim in the Attorney General’s Department submission that the lack of a uniform approach to gun control in Australia prior to 1996 was a significant factor in the diversion of firearms to the illicit market was not supported by any evidence.

1.177 There were, and still are, ample opportunities for firearms to be acquired for criminal purposes and no reason was offered to suggest how that the differences between states had ever been a major contributor to this.170

Importation of illegal firearms

1.181 The Committee found that it was not possible to accurately assess the source of the importation of illicit firearms and firearm parts into Australia. The Government is urged to focus on continuous improvement in border control processes to assist in detecting illegal imports of firearms and firearm parts.

1.182 The recent Auditor General’s Report into the Screening of International Mail showed that screening processes may require some improvements. The Auditor General stated that:

The ANAO’s analysis of data from the agency’s sampling program indicated that around only 13 per cent of prohibited imports arriving in international mail were seized in 2012-13. Customs advised that it now considers the implementation of its sampling program was flawed, raising questions about the integrity of its sampling data.172

1.183 The Committee heard evidence from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service about its increased focus on screening international mail, air cargo and sea cargo to detect illegal imports of firearms.173

1.184 The NSW Police agreed that illegal imports contribute to the presence of firearms in the community:

The fight against illegal gun crime must start at the nation’s borders. The day to day experience of front line police in NSW suggests that the illegal importation of firearms, especially modern handguns and assault rifles, is a key driver of gun crime in NSW

1.178 Mr Tim Bannister, CEO of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, argued that the focus of the NFA was flawed:

“The concept of government registries and manually generated permits to acquire and the like is nothing more than a holdover from a time before electronic data retention, and it is not only completely ineffective but incredibly expensive to maintain. However, here in Australian the vast majority of state and federal law enforcement resources and strategies are now, and have been for the past 18 years, mistakenly focused on spending massive amounts of their time and efforts on monitoring and restricting the activities of just one sector of our society, the licensed firearms owners, which every statistic and every example show are responsible for almost no gun related violence.”

1.179 The 3D printers

1.185 Evidence was given that firearms and/or parts can be produced by a reasonably proficient handyman in his home workshop. While 3D printers may be of assistance in carrying out this task they were by no means integral to the illegal manufacture of firearms.

1.186 Evidence received by the committee indicated that Commonwealth, State and Territory laws relating to the import and manufacture of firearms or firearm parts, including by 3D printers, was sufficient to enable prosecution of any offence.

1.187 The majority of Senators attending the inquiry agrees that State and Territory governments should continue to regulate firearms but acknowledges that data sharing between jurisdictions would contribute to greater effectiveness.

Banning semi-automatic handguns

1.188 No evidence was received that banning semi-automatic handguns would have a material effect on the number of illegally held firearms in Australia or the level of gun violence. The relatively small number of handguns stolen each year, of which only a portion are semi-automatics, suggests a complete ban would make no difference to gun violence. Evidence was received that a ban on semi-automatic handguns would have a significant effect on sporting shooters including Olympic and Commonwealth Games participants.

1.189 Victoria and NSW police did not seek further regulation but wanted more resources for compliance activities. Victoria Police evidence revealed that the majority of semi-automatic handguns seized are from criminals who are prohibited from owning. It was not clear that a ban on semi-automatic handguns would diminish their ability to obtain such handguns.176

Stricter storage requirements

1.190 There was no credible evidence provided to support the conclusion that the use of electronic alarms on residential gun safes would materially enhance the security of stored firearms.177

The Economic, Environmental and Social Benefits of Legal Firearm Use

1.191 The committee heard from several witnesses and received written submissions describing the wide range of benefits to the Australian community of the lawful use of firearms. Responsible recreational shooting and hunting is a culturally important activity and legitimate industry that creates jobs and injects significant funds into the economy. Farmers use firearms as a ‘tool’ of their trade for the control of pests who wreak havoc on the environment and the humane treatment of stock.

1.192 The committee did not seek to address the economics of a failure to control illicit firearms or the financial and resource costs involved in monitoring and enforcing firearms laws and their impact on legal firearms owners.

1.193 The committee heard that there is no direct mechanism for shooting groups and the firearms industry to be consulted since the abolition of the Commonwealth firearms advisory committee.

Hunting

1.194 Game hunting provides significant social and cultural benefits to our nation. An independent study by the University of Queensland demonstrates that the benefit of recreational hunting to the economy is at least $1 billion. The number of recreational hunters in Australia was calculated to be at least 200 000, but more likely 300 000.     178

1.195 Evidence received from the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia conservatively estimates the contributions of hunting, pest control activities, farming and the shooting sports to be between $1.25 and $1.5 billion per annum.179

1.196 The Victorian Government estimates that the total economic impact of game and pest animal hunting by game licence holders in 2013 was worth $439 million to

the economy and that 60 per cent of hunting expenditure occurs in regional Victoria.180

Competitive Shooting

1.197 In its submission Field and Game Australia Inc. stated that:

Participating in target shooting sports and hunting are increasing in Australia with participants coming from a wide variety of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.181

1.198 Competitive shooting is a legitimate use of firearms and Australian shooters compete at Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth and world championship level. The sport requires intense training and is already heavily regulated. The Committee heard from Shooting Australia that those wishing to compete in this legitimate sport must already undergo lengthy probationary periods.182

1.199 The Committee also heard that recreational shooting provides benefits for a wide variety of people including those with a disability or unable to participate in contact sports. In some disciplines women can compete on equal terms with men and the old with the young. Disabled shooters are provided with similar opportunities as their able-bodied counterparts, and compete at local, state, national and international levels. Additionally young Australian’s have established a network of young shooters, establishing a community across the country that enjoys this legitimate use of firearms.

Agricultural/Environmental Uses

1.200 The Committee heard that firearms are a very important tool in agriculture as they are used for a variety of purposes such as humanely putting down an injured animal and controlling feral pests. Creating further regulation on firearm use would be an unnecessary financial and practical burden on farmers, as described by the National Farmer’s Federation:

“…there are set-up costs with access to firearms and then ongoing maintenance. Most farm businesses in Australia are small businesses. Many of them operate in a low cash environment. Particularly when things are tighter, any additional cost has an impact on the ability of the farm business to keep going. So any additional cost is a serious concern to us and our members…” 183

1.201 Australian farmers are one of our country’s best protectors of the natural environment. Farmers in various agricultural and horticultural industries take it upon themselves to remove feral, pest species of animals including foxes, cats, wild pigs,

wild dogs, rabbits and others. The Committee heard that the cost of pest animals to agriculture is in excess of $750 million.184

1.202 Destroying these nuisance animals with firearms is far more humane than baiting or poisoning which can often take a toll on native species:

…a firearm is a necessary adjunct to rural occupations in respect of dealing with animals humanely and efficiently and we know that we cannot keep dropping increasing thousands of tonnes of poison into the environment trying to control feral animals when in fact the firearm is largely under used and under utilised.185

1.203 As well as protecting our native species from predators and competition for food from introduced species, farmers are able to enjoy higher yields in both livestock and horticultural settings with the assistance of firearms.

International Comparisons

1.204 At an international level, there is no consensus on whether there exists a relationship between the level of firearm availability and firearm-related violence. Mr David Hawker pointed out that New Zealand declined the invitation to join with Australia in adopting firearms registration in 1996. Canada has since abandoned longarm registration, concluding it was not worth the cost. He agreed that neither country had seen a subsequent increase in gun related violence and stated ‘we are going to considerable expense for questionable results’.186

1.205 Police witnesses were unable to account for the disparity between their views on gun ownership and community safety and the record of Switzerland and Israel that have extremely high gun ownership, but low levels of gun-related crime.

New Zealand

1.206 In 1983, New Zealand moved away from the requirement to register long-arms and focus available resources upon the person making an application for a firearm licence by ensuring, as far as possible, that only fit and proper people had access to firearms. The licensing system includes background and reference checks, as well as safety training and a written test.

1.207 There are estimated to be about 1.1 million firearms in New Zealand—about one for every four people. The rate of deaths involving firearms has decreased in the past twenty years, including those resulting from assault, suicide, and accidents.187

148

1.208 Additional evidence provided to the Committee showed that violent offending with firearms remained stable in New Zealand at about 1.3 per cent of all violent offending from 1985 – 2005.

188

Canada

1.209 Canada has followed New Zealand’s example and focuses more on the person making an application for a licence. Canada decreased the regulatory requirements for long arms and found no subsequent increase in gun related violence. Applicants are required to pass safety tests before being eligible for a firearms license. Applicants are also subject to background checks which take into account criminal, mental health, addiction, and domestic violence records. According to 2010 data, over the past thirty years firearm-related homicides have continued to decline.189

United Kingdom

1.210 The United Kingdom has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. In 1997 the UK banned all handguns. Only police officers, members of the armed forces, or individuals with written permission from the Home Secretary may lawfully own a handgun.190

1.211 The ban did not reduce the number of active shooters. Pistol clubs turned to pistol calibre carbines, which are more powerful and have higher capacity magazines. The UK has also reported an increase in homicide with pistols and in terms of crime: ‘the ban on handguns is neither here nor there in the equation’.191

1.212 It is reasonable to conclude that the banning of certain categories of firearm only affects those who possess and use them lawfully. Those who use them unlawfully are already outside the law.

Please pass this about everywhere.  Ron Owen

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