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AIC research finds decline in firearms theft

Media Release

11 May 2006

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

No. E37/6,

An Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) report on firearms theft, which has been released today, notes a marked decline in the theft of guns, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said.

Senator Ellison said the report, "Firearms Theft in Australia: a six month exploratory analysis", provided analysis of data which was collected by State and Territory Police services from 1 February to 31 July 2004 and follows earlier work by the AIC which analysed firearms theft from 1994 to 2000.

"The key findings of the report provide reassurance that activity by law enforcement agencies and the firearms community is having a positive effect on reducing the incidence of firearms theft," Senator Ellison said.

"This includes a review of firearms storage in the security industry, ongoing programs for inspecting firearm storage facilities and community information initiatives such as the National Firearms Safety Code."

Key findings include:

  • There has been a significant reduction in firearms theft, from approximately 4,000 per year between 1996 and 2000 to 664 in the six month period covered by this research.
  • The overall rate of firearms theft in Australia is low: only 0.04% of licence holders in Australia reported an incident of theft during the six month period covered by the report.
  • Rifles account for the majority of firearms stolen over the reporting period.
  • Thirty per cent of firearms stolen were insecurely stored.
  • In 58% of incidents of firearms theft other goods, such as audio and electrical appliances, jewellery and tools, were stolen.
  • Private residential premises are the most common location for incidents involving firearms theft. Only one in ten thefts was from business premises.
  • The majority of incidents of firearms theft appear to be opportunistic in nature.

"I have encouraged members of my Sporting Shooters and Firearms Advisory Council to continue working with their stakeholder groups to ensure the importance of safe and secure storage is well understood," Senator Ellison said.

"The Australian Institute of Criminology will be conducting a further four year program of research into firearms theft so the important work of monitoring trends in firearms theft can continue."

The Attorney-General's Department will be working with State and Territory Police services to investigate burglary reduction initiatives to assist firearms owners to reduce the incidence of opportunistic theft.

"It is particularly appropriate the AIC's research into firearm theft was funded under the Howard Government's Proceeds of Crime Act," Senator Ellison said.