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Guns in Australia

Guest The Pom Queen

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Guest The Pom Queen

There is a gun battle going on in Australia. As bikie gang members and drug dealers gun each other down on a regular basis, sending fear through the community, authorities seem to be fighting a losing battle to keep firearms out of their hands.


Without scaremongering, here are the facts:


* There have been 39 people shot in Sydney this year, most related to an ongoing bikie war.


* Conservative estimates say there are more than a quarter-of-a-million illegal firearms in Australia.


* Gun ownership in Australia is back at pre-Port Arthur massacre levels.


* Carrying a gun is becoming more common and ingrained in outlaw culture.


* Gun amnesties barely put a dent in the number of weapons.


* Innocent people are being caught up in gun battles.


* There has been a steady increase in gun-related crimes over the past seven years.


But ..


* Our rate of gun-related deaths is decreasing. Latest figures show guns account for just 1.06 deaths per 100,000 compared to 10.3 per 100,000 in the United States.


So far this year, there have been 39 people shot on Sydney's streets. Fourteen of those were in July. Two men were shot dead this week. One had survived another shooting just days before being killed.


The carnage has prompted NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione to call for judges to impose tougher sentences for gun crime, saying some offenders are getting off with fines.



Crime experts say there has been a change in behaviour among outlaws.


One former counter terrorism officer, who spoke to The Australian and asked not to be named, said the gun culture had become so ingrained among Middle Eastern males in southwest Sydney that they have taken to settling so-called "honour'' disputes with guns.


"The culture is all guns and drugs. If someone looks at your wife the wrong way, you shoot them. They think they're bulletproof and they have this wilful disregard for authority.''


Police figures show that in the 2012-2013 financial year 9506 illegal firearms were seized, 729 of them handguns.


Handguns, particularly the semi-automatic Glock, are the criminal's weapon of choice.


Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that firearms are being used more often in crime.


In the seven years from 2005 to 2012, gun murders across Australia almost doubled. The incidence of guns used in kidnappings trebled. The total number of crimes in which a firearm was used rose from 823 in 2005, to 1217 in 2012, an increase of 47 per cent.


The figures look bad, but 2005 was an unusual year, with gun crime at a record low. Numbers of gun-related crimes had fallen in the preceding years before bottoming out and rising again.


Total gun crimes in 2012 were 1217, compared to 1107 in 2011.


This year, it seems to be getting worse.


In the last month there have been 13 serious shooting incidents reported in south-western Sydney.


Adelaide experienced a burst of gun activity early this year with 14 people shot in January and February.


In other incidents:


* In the NT, a car chase through Darwin ended in a volley of gunshots when a woman fired at a woman in another car. Two people were wounded.


* In Queensland this year, a woman was shot in the hip at Carrara, a man in the face at Upper Mount Gravatt and a man in the leg at Kedron in three separate incidents.


* In Victoria, once the state with an appalling reputation for gun crime, there have been relatively few incidents this year, though a bikie clubhouse was shot up in June.


Latest figures from the Australian Crime Commission estimate there are more than 260,000 illegal firearms in Australia. Other studies put the number as high as half-a-million.


Amnesties and dob-in campaigns barely scratch the surface.


NSW police figures show there have been 271 weapons seized up to mid-May.


In May, the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA), launched Operation Unification, a joint initiative of police agencies across Australia to get illicit firearms out of the hands of criminals.


In the two weeks of the operation, 110 firearms were seized and 52 people arrested.


This week, the WA government has launched a gun buyback scheme in a bid to get weapons off the streets.


Last year in SA, about 3000 firearms were handed in during an amnesty.


A three-month amnesty in Queensland this year netted 19,000 weapons - one of the most successful hauls since the Howard governments buyback in the 1990s.


But it still leaves hundreds of thousands of illegal weapons out there.


As one crime expert said: "Crims don't hand in their guns."


But "at least it takes a few more guns off the streets," another official said.


The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates around 1500 firearms are stolen each year, the majority of which are rifles and shotguns, with few of these recovered.


In its most recent national intelligence assessment of the illicit firearm market in 2012, the Australian Crime Commission said the durability of firearms ensured those sold illegally remain in circulation for many decades.


The oldest firearm traced by the ACC was a functioning revolver manufactured in 1888.


As for illegal weapons brought in from overseas, more than 4000 guns, parts and magazines were seized by Customs between 2008-11. But authorities admit it is unknown how many are not detected.


In a bid to combat illegal firearms, $9.1 million will be spent to establish a national electronic ballistics network for police.

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