Gun laws are a controversial topic – while some advocate freer access to guns, others want even stricter regulations imposed.
This month, ‘Unification Operation’ has been in full swing – a project run by the NSW police which aims to get illegal firearms off the streets. Similar campaigns are being run in other states Australia-wide.
The operation has so far experienced success in uncovering and seizing guns. Just this week the NSW Police Force’s blitz against illegal guns found and seized 10 firearms, over 2,000 rounds of ammunition and numerous gun-making tools.
In one house, not only was a gun seized but also a rifle scope, knuckle dusters, a flick knife, ammunition, drugs and property believed to be stolen. The 22-year-old resident was arrested and is due to appear in Campbelltown court house later in the month.
Campbelltown court house is not the only place which will be hearing cases of gun offences – the search of a house in Casula yielded another gun as well as tools and machinery suspected of manufacturing firearms. The 27-year-old man arrested at the property was taken to the Liverpool Police Station.
In Concord, police found four rifles, four shotguns and about 2,200 rounds of ammunition.
Ever since the tragic Port Arthur massacre in 1996, during which 35 people were shot dead, Australia has faced stricter gun control laws. All states swiftly implemented new legislation regulating firearms control.
According to NSW law, a person cannot supply, acquire, possess or use an unregistered firearm. The penalty is 10 years imprisonment for a pistol or a prohibited firearm, and five years for any other type of unregistered firearms.
The aims of the new firearm laws is to confirm that licences to firearms is a privilege and conditional on public safety. It imposes strict controls on the possession and use of firearms and promotes the safe and responsible storage and use of firearms.
But despite this approach illegal and stolen guns are still circulating. In the last financial year 555 guns were reported stolen, and another 211 just since this January in rural areas.
This financial year police in NSW alone have seized 8,806 illegal firearms, including 769 handguns.
However guns are not the most common weapon used in Australia. The most common murder weapons in Australia are knives. The next common was firearms, making up 17 per cent of murders. They comprised 24 per cent of attempted murders and were used in 7 per cent of robberies.
Australia’s gun laws, like the UK’s, seem to have had a positive effect on crime – America has murder rates three times that of other developed countries. Even Obama has come out as a strong supporter of Australian gun laws. He has praised the Australian reaction to a mass shooting by tightening gun control laws, and after each American mass shooting in recent months, has urged reforms to gun ownership laws along similar lines.
While gun problems are not as much of an issue here as in America, the number of illegal weapons circulating Australia is a worrying trend.
Although most shootings in NSW are targeted attacks – not random mass shootings. Most are between rival gangs, although sometimes innocent passersby get caught up in the gunfire, as was the case in the tragic killing of 66 year old Bob Knight in Milperra in 2009.
A stray bullet during a fight between rival groups in a fast food restaurant car park ended Knight’s life as he waited at traffic lights. The bullet went through several trees and across six lanes of traffic before hitting him.
Possessing illegal firearms is a serious offence and can lead to tragic deaths. The Unification Operation urges any members of the public who have any information about illegal firearms to contact Crime Stoppers.