Theft fig­ures fire de­bate on gun laws

Tasmanian Country - - NEWS - CHANEL KINNIBURGH

MORE than 2000 guns have been re­ported stolen across the state in the past decade as Premier Will Hodg­man moves to re­lax firearm laws.

New fig­ures re­leased by the Gun Con­trol Aus­tralia lobby group, ob­tained un­der Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion laws, show Tas­ma­nia ac­counts for 8 per cent of na­tional gun thefts de­spite mak­ing up just 2 per cent of Aus­tralia’s pop­u­la­tion.

Be­tween the 2007-2008 and 2016-2017 fi­nan­cial years, it to­tal 2084 guns were re­ported stolen in the state.

Hunting ri­fles and shot­guns were the most com­mon stolen firearms, fol­lowed by hand­guns.

The most firearm thefts were recorded be­tween 2014 and 2016, with 517 guns stolen dur­ing the two years.

Gun Con­trol Aus­tralia vice pres­i­dent and the group’s Tas­ma­nian spokesman Roland Browne said it was an “em­bar­rass­ing and sig­nif­i­cant” prob­lem for the state.

“There’s been a very, very large num­ber of guns that have moved into the hands of crim­i­nals and the black mar­ket,” Mr Browne said.

“It’s alarm­ing and it means that Tas­ma­nia’s stor­age re­quire­ments have been in­ad­e­quate for over a decade.”

Mr Browne said most firearms were stolen from farms and the homes of le­gal gun own­ers.

“Th­ese fig­ures should be an eye opener for the premier be­cause they in­di­cate a larger rate of thefts from ru­ral ar­eas,” he said.

The numbers come as the Lib­eral Govern­men pre­pares to give farm­ers greater ac­cess to Cat­e­gory C firearms, such as self-load­ing ri­fles and pumpaction shot­guns, and ex­tend some li­cences from five to 10 years.

How­ever, Po­lice Min­is­ter Michael Fer­gu­son said there would be no changes to the stor­age re­quire­ments, which were tough­ened late last year.

“We have made it clear that we will not do any­thing that puts Tas­ma­ni­ans at risk or is in­con­sis­tent with the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment,” he said.

“Tas­ma­nia now has the tough­est stor­age re­quire­ments in the coun­try and there is no pro­posal to change that.

“The lat­est fig­ures show th­ese changes are work­ing as in­tended with a sig­nif­i­cant re­duc­tion in firearm theft in Tas­ma­nia.”

Tas­ma­nia Po­lice As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Glenn Frame backed the State Gov­ern­ment, say­ing firearm thefts were de­creas­ing thanks to high lev­els of stor­age, gun owner vig­i­lance and reg­u­lar po­lice in­spec­tions.

From July 1 last year to the end of Fe­bru­ary there were 19 firearms thefts, down 26 from the same time the pre­vi­ous year. Af­ter the changes, tim­ber firearms safes no longer com­ply with the stor­age leg­is­la­tion and firearm own­ers who possess hand­guns, or 10 or more firearms, are re­quired to have elec­tronic se­cu­rity.

Greens MP Ros­alie Woodruff said the Lib­er­als’ pol­icy was dan­ger­ous and would make the community less safe.

“Tas­ma­nia needs stronger laws to en­sure guns are safely se­cured, and the avail­abil­ity of rapid-fire weapons is re­stricted,” she said.

“In­stead of hid­ing be­hind an Up­per House in­quiry, the Lib­er­als should scrap their dan­ger­ous pol­icy now.”

Shoot­ers, Fish­ers and Farm­ers Party com­mit­tee mem­ber Carlo Di Falco said it would cost gun own­ers up to $12.5 mil­lion to up­grade their stor­age units statewide.

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