Alarming gun figure has Aussies fuming
AUSTRALIAN gun rights advocates are fuming over a report suggesting the number of firearms stolen in Australia has more than doubled in the past decade.
It comes as shock figures show the number of guns owned by just one Australian - in the small village of Moonbi, north of Tamworth - reach as high as 312 guns in New South Wales alone.
Gun Control Australia obtained data under Freedom of Information laws and published their findings in a report titled Firearms Theft in Australia 2007-2017.
The findings concluded that in the past 10 years the average number of firearms stolen annually in Australia has nearly doubled from 1700 thefts in 2007-2008 to nearly 3300 in 2016-2017. Over the 10 years, almost 27,000 firearms were stolen.
The figures show that most of the thefts have come from within private residential properties and most were never recovered.
"These figures show the great bulk of weapons (75 per cent) are being stolen from residential properties, often in the heart of our bigger cities," Greens MP David Shoebridge told our sister paper news.com.au.
The same FOI laws helped The Greens launch the TooManyGuns.Org website with the How Many Guns Are In Your Suburb? locator providing NSW residents with startling information on gun ownership by postcode.
Suburbs with the highest gun ownership per individual include Moonbi (312), Little Bay (305) in southeastern Sydney and Mosman (285), in Sydney's elite north shore.
"Stolen guns are fuelling the illegal gun market," Gun Control Australia chair Samantha Lee told news.com.au.
"There's a lot of reasons why the public should be concerned," she said, citing an increase in accidental injury or death.
"The Prime Minister continues to ride on the coat tails of John Howard without doing anything to stop the wreckage of our gun laws. It's about time the Prime Minister came out and did something about the destruction of gun laws in Australia."
The TooManyGuns website stated that NSW alone was on track to have one million registered guns by 2020.
"Most of this growth in guns isn't more people getting a one or two guns, it's about a relatively small number of gun owners getting dozens and dozens of weapons," it said. "The data shows that less households own guns but those households that own guns on average own more than five of them."
NSW has the largest number of stolen firearms with a total of 6651 stolen over 10 years up to 30 June 2017. In Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia the number of firearms stolen has more than doubled over the last decade with Victoria having the largest increase of 123 per cent.
Tasmania, with only 2 per cent of Australia's population accounts for 8 per cent of gun thefts, the report concluded.
According to GunPolicy.org the estimated total number of privately owned firearms (both licit and illicit) held by civilians in Australia was 3.5 million in 2016.
Rifles made up the majority of reported stolen firearms. A number of high-powered military style firearms were also stolen, but at much lower rates than other firearms, the report said.
The findings could be even higher than reported, according to Gun Control Australia, "because the figures represent only those incidents that are reported to police".
"GCA is concerned there is a reasonably high number of owners who do not appropriately store their firearms and that some owners are not taking the securing of their firearms seriously, especially when it comes to hunting rifles," the report said.
Yet Robert Borsak, representative of the Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party in the NSW Legislative Council, described the report as a "beat up" and claimed the statistic "can't be trusted".
"What the hell is this all about?" Mr Borsak told news.com.au. "Why should legal firearm owners who have their firearms properly secured be blamed? It's outrageous.
"We're very upset that we weren't spoken to about this. We've been set up to defend ourselves."
Despite "supporting" background checks and "ensuring safe storage", Mr Borsak claimed the report was a "politically motivated" stunt and says the police should be "focusing on illegal firearms and getting them off the streets".
"What we should be concentrating on is not victimising law abiding citizens with regular propaganda like this, but focus should be on trying to control illegal firearms coming into Australia," he said.
Mr Borsak claimed the report was "baseless propaganda".
"Gun Control Australia is always doing this sort of stuff," he said. "This is a terrible beat up, it's unbelievable, I'm quite disturbed."
Mr Borsak told news.com.au that "what these figures don't tell us is that 72 per cent of stolen firearms are recovered". However, he was unable to provide evidence backing-up his claims.
Gun Control Australia chief Samantha Lee defended the figures to news.com.au stressing the figures "have been collated nationally by FOI laws and figures from firearms registries across the country".
Ms Lee said only "around 35 per cent are recovered again", FOI figures show.
"They could turn up in crime scenes overseas or Australia," Ms Lee said.
"There is no government body monitoring firearms theft or monitoring the tracking of firearms once they do get stolen. We have this big empty bubble not knowing what's going on.
"We can only assume they're being moved into the illicit trade."
News.com.au has contacted NSW Police for comment.
The Prime Minister's office referred to past comments made on the ABC.
"Australia's experience in gun law reform, of course undertaken so courageously and effectively by John Howard more than 20 years ago, is a very powerful demonstration of the success of our policies."