Theft figures fire debate on gun laws
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.