Sunday, October 15, 2017

Australian Gun Culture: End of the 2017 Amnesty 50,000 Guns

The Australian nationwide gun amnesty is over. It lasted three months, was nationwide, and received a lot of attention, domestic and international. I was there for almost the entire amnesty, from 1 July to September 26. The Amnesty ended on 30 September.

While I was there I talked to dozens of gun owners, employees and owners of gun shops, and police officers. There are some interesting things that are not being written about or are overlooked. Most articles are claiming that over 50,000 guns were turned in and will be destroyed. I believe the 50,000 number for guns turned in. I doubt that 50,000 firearms will be destroyed.

This amnesty was significantly different from the mandatory turn-in and compensated confiscation in 1996. During this amnesty, legal guns could be turned-in and registered. Guns could be turned in to gun shops. If the gun shop wanted to sell the gun, they could put it on their books and sell it as a registered gun. I talked to people at two guns shops several times during the amnesty. I was able to obtain a list of guns turned in.

About 25% of the guns turned in were air guns, from observed numbers at the shops I visited. Airguns have the same legal requirements to be registered in Australia as a double barreled shotgun. Before 1996, air guns were essentially unregulated. One rural Australian told me "every boy had an air gun". It explains the plentiful supply of old, rusted air guns. I only saw the guns turned in in New South Wales; but that is where half of the guns turned in came from. It made sense to turn in broken or unusable air guns when the amnesty allowed it to be done legally.

Many air guns only cost $50 new. To pay the $30 registration fee and go through the trouble and legal risk attendant with firearms ownership is not worthwhile for old, rusty air guns. Turning them in outside of the amnesty was legally risky.

Second, many of the guns turned in were then registered and placed in the legal channels of commerce. I saw this happen a number of times. It is difficult to know what percentage of guns that were turned in were registered. It makes little sense for a gun shop to give a gun to the police to be destroyed if they can sell it for a couple of hundred dollars. Gun shops had the legal discretion to either keep a gun for sale or turn it in to police, if it was turned in to them during the amnesty.

I did not see many used guns for sale in Australia. A gun shop owner told me that used guns are immediately sold. It was indicated that there was a waiting list for them. The ones I saw were in back rooms, not on the display floor. I am not implying anything illegal there; only that they never made it to the display floor before someone legally purchased them, because of high demand.

Due to a peculiarity in Australian gun law, gun parts may be considered as guns. If I were a police administrator attempting to please the Prime Minister, I would want to put forward as high a count as possible. The guns are going to be destroyed, so there seems little official incentive to make a distinction. From what I saw, gun parts might count for as much as 5% of the guns turned in.

Here is the official statement from Prime Minister Turnbull. From
Australia's 3 month National Firearms Amnesty has led to more than 50,000 firearms being handed in across Australia.

This is an overwhelming response and represents a significant reduction in the number of unregistered firearms in the Australian community.

Australia has some of the strongest gun laws in the world but illicit firearms remain a threat to community safety.

As a result of this successful amnesty, there are now 50,000 fewer firearms on the streets.

While the amnesty has now finished, the Justice Minister Michael Keenan is encouraging people who still have an unregistered firearm, or who come into possession of an unregistered firearm, to contact their local police station or firearm registry.
The official, final numbers are given.

JurisdictionFirearms receivedJurisdictionFirearms received
New South Wales24,965South Australia2,648
Queensland16,000Australian Capital Territory709
Victoria3,654Western Australia1,242
Tasmania1,924Northern Territory322

Notice that those numbers are listed as received, not destroyed.

The Australian published these numbers a few days before the final tally was released:
  • Tasmania: 1,924
  • Western Australia: 1,242
  • Northern Territory: approx. 320
  • New South Wales: 14,466 (as of 7 Sept)
  • Queensland: 7,000 (as of 25 Aug)
  • Victoria – 2,150 (as of 25 Aug)
  • South Australia – 1,338 (as of 25 Aug)
  • ACT – 264 (as of 25 Aug)
How many of the guns received are actual firearms that will be destroyed? It is very difficult to say.  I may be able to dig up numbers in a few months. I have sources in Australia that I did not have before. I suspect the number will be closer to 30,000 than to 50,000.

The low end of unregistered firearms in Australia is estimated at 260,000. A common high end is estimated at 600,000

The guns turned in are dwarfed by the number of legal guns imported. The import numbers have risen to nearly 100,000 a year. Most of those are rifles and shotguns, but there are a significant number of handguns. The chart is from official Australian sources.

Most crime with guns is committed with illegal handguns or homemade submachine guns, virtually all of them illegally possessed. About one out of eight handguns confiscated in Australia has been illegally made at home or in a small shop in Australia.

The extremely restrictive Australian gun laws cost Australians more than 29 million dollars a year. The entire cost has been upwards of a billion dollars.  Little to nothing can be shown for this expense and loss of liberty.

Proponents of the extreme laws resort to statistical tricks, such as only looking at homicides or suicides with guns, instead of total suicide or homicide rates. The very crux of the debate is about the likelihood of substitute methods being used.

In the study of mass killings before and after, no one is considering the role of the Australian media, which is acknowledged as one of the prime motivators for the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.

It is not surprising there has not been another Port Arthur in Australia. The Australian media has switched from virtual promotion of a mass killing with a semi-automatic gun, to explaining that it cannot happen in Australia any more.

There has been one mass killing with a firearm since Port Arthur, as acknowledged in this study by the Australian government.  Former P.M. Howard simply ignores it, and claims there have been none.

The Australian gun law fiasco seems to be one where activists found a virtually non-existent problem, created a crisis with media hype, passed burdensome laws, then attempt to justify them with statistical trickery.

We saw the same thing in the United States in the 1950's with switchblade knives.

I astute observers will come up with numerous examples of other excesses of the regulatory state.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

Gun Watch


Anonymous said...

a n° of points:

i/SSAA research indicates up to ten million 'un-registered' guns in Australia;
(including over one million SKS rifles...imported during the 1980s and early 1990s as part of a trade deal with China)

ii/there have been several 'mass shootings' since the so-called Port Arthur massacre.....
(a 'mass shooting' being defined as four or more fatalities apropos US DoJ/FBI guide-lines)

iii/the government has no real idea of how many "illegal" guns are imported annually;
(there are over one million sea-tainers going through AU ports annually...less than 10% of these are checked)

iv/the 1996/1997 'buy-back' of guns kept the Liberal Coalition Party out-of-office for almost 15yrs in states and territories and, ultimately, cost Howard his own parliamentary seat of Bennelong;
(since both Shorten and Turnbull have made no bones abt their hoplophobia either, it is to be expected that both will be severely punished @ the polls.....there will be many more 'hung' Parliaments on the AU electoral scene in the near fact: the ALP and the Liberal Coalition Party may well have to 'merge' to survive...)

Dean Weingarten said...

Please send links to more Australian shootings with 4 or more fatalities.

I would like to see the SSAA figures that show 10 million unregistered guns. A link would be helpful.

A link showing importation of 1 million SKS rifles into Australia would also be helpful.

I have not found those links.