The Greens have released new figures showing for the first time the extent of gun ownership, and the disturbing number of private arsenals, across NSW.
Private gun owners have been allowed to stockpile personal arsenals comprised of hundreds of weapons in suburban Sydney, data obtained by the NSW Greens under freedom of information laws shows.
Toomanyguns.org contains two sets of data obtained through Freedom of Information applications to the NSW Police. The first is the overall number of guns and gun owners in NSW overall and by postcode as at July 2015. This shows 850,634 registered firearms in NSW. There are over 100 postcodes that have more than 2,400 guns and there are 9 postcodes that contain more than 10,000 guns.
The second set of data demonstrates the size of the largest 100 private arsenals owned by any one person in NSW as at December 2015. This specifically excluded guns owned by firearm dealers and collectors. Remarkably this shows over 100 people had between 71 and 322 guns each.
The Greens think this is too many guns.
On 28 April 1996 a gunman killed 35 people and injured a further 23 in Australia’s worst ever mass shooting at Port Arthur. 20 years on from this tragedy and the historic National Firearms Agreement (NFA) and buyback that followed, it is time to review the state of Australia’s firearms laws.
The 1996 agreement delivered a prohibition on automatic and semi-automatic weapons. For the first time ever the NFA also made it a universal requirement across Australia for people to establish they had a ‘genuine reason” for having a firearms licence and a “good reason” to acquire a firearm.
Loophole allows Private Arsenals
However there is a serious loophole in Australia’s firearms laws that is being exploited by some gun owners so that they can accumulate dozens and dozens, and in some cases hundreds, of guns. Gun owners can endlessly recycle the same “good reason” to get their first gun and then their second gun, their tenth gun and their 300th gun.
This lack of rigour in the law has allowed 100 citizens in NSW to have more than 70 guns each. There are dozens of people in ordinary suburbs and towns who quite literally own private arsenals. The community expects that our firearm laws will put reasonable limits on the number of guns people can own to prevent the build-up of private arsenals in the community.
The NSW permit to acquire a firearm requires a person seeking to acquire a gun to state that:
“I confirm that the good reason for acquiring this firearm is directly related to the reason for the issue of my firearms licence.”
The main reasons people give for obtaining a firearms licence are that they are a member of a shooting club or the owner of a rural property. Some also rely on their membership of a hunting club.
Reform need to stop the accumulation of private arsenals
The Greens accept that there are people in the community who have a genuine reason to own a gun. Farmers on rural properties often require firearms for euthanizing injured stock or controlling wild invasive animals. Target shooting at a registered gun club is also a long-recognised and legitimate sport. Members of a shooting club and farmers may reasonably be able to establish a need for a number of guns to address their different needs. However it is impossible to see how any one citizen can establish a “genuine” or “good reason” to have dozens, or even hundreds of guns.
In the interests of community safety it is time this loophole in the firearms laws was closed so that once any gun owner owned at least 5 guns that they have to establish a separate and extraordinary reason for owning each additional gun.
Properly administered this reform would significantly reduce the number of firearms in our community and end the disturbing trend towards people collecting their own private arsenals.
Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“Something is broken in our firearm laws when people are allowed to build up their own private arsenals.
“It is seriously frightening to think that here are one hundred people across the state, who aren’t collectors or firearms dealers, and who own more than 70 guns each.
“The sheer number of guns in the community, with 9 suburbs each having more than 10,000 registered guns, should give politicians pause to think.
“Of course there are people in the community such as farmers and target shooters who can establish a good reason to have one two or three guns. But how on earth are the NSW Police ticking off on allowing people to have dozens or even hundreds of guns?
“The current law has a serious loophole that allows gun owners to endlessly recycle the same “good reason” to get their first gun, then their second gun, their tenth gun and even their 300th gun.
“Once a gun owner has acquired 5 guns then there needs to be an exceptional reason before they are allowed to have extra firearms.
“These private arsenals represent a real threat to community safety, they are honeypot targets for criminals who want to get their hands on potentially hundreds of guns in a single raid.
“This reform would significantly reduce the number of firearms in our community, increase safety and end the disturbing trend of people collecting their own private arsenals.” Mr Shoebridge said.
Find out how many guns are in your suburb: http://www.toomanyguns.org/