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4,000 guns reported stolen across Australia every year

Media Release

11 July 2002

Media release from Senator, the Hon Chris Ellison, Minister for Justice and Customs

Federal Justice and Customs Minister Chris Ellison today called on States and Territories to join the Commonwealth and do more to prevent firearms' theft across Australia.

Senator Ellison's comments came after research was released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) which revealed that on average 4,000 firearms were reported stolen across Australia every year.

"It is of concern that the theft of 4,000 firearms a year means that on average 12 firearms are reported stolen across Australia every day," Senator Ellison said.

During the research period from 1994-95 to 1999-2000, a total of 25,171 firearms were reported stolen in Australia. The majority of firearms reported stolen were rifles (51%), followed by shotguns (21%) and handguns (14%).

"Of all firearms reported stolen, 81% were from residential premises."

"There has been a welcome decline in the number of firearms reported stolen over the six-year period, indicating that licensed firearm owners would seem to be increasingly vigilant in securing their firearms. However, the theft rate is still too high, and more needs to be done," Senator Ellison said.

"While we can't accurately assess the number of stolen firearms which find their way into the black market and criminal elements, the fact that 4,000 firearms are stolen each year potentially provides a stock of firearms for criminals and that needs to be addressed."

"A lot has been done in recent years to reduce the number of illegal handguns on our streets. I am confident that our border protection measures are working effectively to prevent the illegal importation of handguns and other firearms. However, the potential diversion of legally imported firearms to the black market through theft is of great concern," Senator Ellison said.

The national firearms trafficking policy agreement to be considered by the australasian police ministers council was sent to all police ministers in april this year, and proposes to deal with a range of matters including:

  • a commitment by all jurisdictions to ensure that substantial penalties for the illegal possession of a handgun are in place;
  • the introduction of consistent firearms manufacturing regulations and serious offences for the illegal manufacture of firearms;
  • the increased administration of firearm parts transactions, and the proposed introduction of laws designed to restrict the illegal supply of firearms and to make it an offence to conspire to commit an interstate firearm offence.

Senator Ellison also called on all jurisdictions to, as a starting point, review their auditing arrangements following registration of firearms.

"This auditing could be done through the various Firearms Registries in each State and Territory and the upcoming Australian Police Ministers' Council would provide all jurisdictions with an opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to work together constructively, to reduce the number of firearms finding their way into the wrong hands," Senator Ellison said.