Charleston shooting massacre should prompt us to consider another gun amnesty and buyback (?)

Jane Fynes-Clinton (below) must be desperate for something to say.  The gun scenes in Australia and the U.S. have virtually nothing in common.  Our rate of gun deaths is about a thousandth  of theirs and you are already not allowed to own a gun for self-defence in Australia.  They are allowed to members of gun clubs for sporting purposes only. She is using the fact that the police trace and seize a lot of illegal guns to argue that more illegal guns should be seized.  But do not the seizures show that illegal gun ownership is difficult already and that a lot is  being done to enforce that?

WE NEED to go back to 1996: a new-age firearm buyback and amnesty is needed. And we need it now.

The US President Barack Obama lauded Australia this week for the success of the hard line stance the federal government took 19 years ago in banning semiautomatic and automatic weapons and buying back the newly illegal firearms, but those on the front line say Australia is again on the edge of unthinkable horror.

After witnessing yet another shooting massacre in the US – this time in Charleston, South Carolina in which eight people died as they attended church – we must act. We must not wait for our own mass shooting tragedy to make us sit up.

Victoria Police said this week they are stumbling on illegal firearms every two days in the course of their other work. [so if you make them doubly illegal how is that going to help?]

But if you break down the statistics, Queensland’s situation is possibly worse than in Victoria. The most recent Queensland Police Service annual report shows between 2012 and 2014 the Firearms Investigation Unit seized 804 unlicensed weapons and 4.2 tonnes of ammunition, or more than five weapons a week.

The dedicated Gold Coast Firearms Investigation team recovered 158 unlawful firearms in 2013-14.  Queensland’s part of Operation Unification, a nationwide two-week police operation to recover illegal weapons in June last year, netted 59 firearms.

The Australian Crime Commission last month told a senate committee inquiry it believed there are about 260,000 illegal guns out there.

The ACC last month detailed the emergence of new threats from the illicit supply of firearms, with crims taking advantage of digital technology to open up new supply networks and making guns using 3D printers. Surely taking the standard weaponry out of circulation would free law enforcers to get on with tackling these new threats?

The massacre at Port Arthur, Tasmania was, at the time, the worst mass killing by a single gunman anywhere. Within weeks of Martin Bryant’s horrific murder of 35 people, the law was changed to ban rapid-fire weapons, implement a market-value buyback and open up a firearm amnesty on those guns.  Incredibly, 643,726 newly illegal guns were then bought by the government. We have not had a mass shooting since – using the international measure of five people or more being shot.

In the decade up to and including Port Arthur, Australia experienced 11 mass shootings. In these 11 events alone, 100 people were killed and another 52 wounded. But police are telling us of warning shots over our bow and we have to heed them.

The numbers of stashed, illegal firearms is creeping up. These are not box cutters or Tasers: guns have what scientists call a “high lethality index”.

We need another buyback, another amnesty. It would not hurt the responsible owners of the 25,000 registered handguns in Queensland, but would keep us all safer.

And we need to detain those found with illegal, unregistered weapons until their day in court.

Getting tough and calling in illegal weapons worked before . It is worth giving it another whirl, 20 years after its first run.
Let us not have a bloodbath to remind of us of what we should have done.


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