The first numbers for the National Gun Amnesty are in, and more than 12,500 unregistered firearms have been surrendered since it started last month, Michael Keenan, the minister for justice, announced on Thursday.
According to nytimes.com:
The amnesty, which is running from July 1 until Sept. 30, allows people to hand unwanted or unregistered firearms over to the police and to licensed firearm dealers without fear of prosecution. Ordinarily, the possession of an unregistered firearm can bring a fine of up to 280,000 Australian dollars ($220,000) or 14 years in jail.
Are potential criminals lining up to hand in their guns? Maybe not, said Philip Alpers, an associate professor at the University of Sydney and gun policy specialist. While he called the amnesty “a real success,” he described many of the weapons being handed in as “rubbish guns.” “I would suspect the great majority of guns that have been surrendered are long guns, which have very little value to their owners and even less value to criminals.”
Long guns, such as rifles, which are typically used by farmers, are less valuable on the illicit market than handguns. “Those are the highly desired guns, the guns criminals will pay thousands of dollars to buy. They’re the criminal’s choices because they’re so concealable,” Professor Alpers said.
In 2016, a report from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission found that more than 250,000 long guns and 10,000 handguns were in the illicit firearm market.
The largest hand-in so far has come from New South Wales, with 6,400 firearms surrendered. “We’ve also received more than 110 prohibited weapons, including samurai swords, knives and other edged weapons,” said Wayne Hoffman, a detective chief inspector with the New South Wales Police.
In a news conference on Friday, Paul Millett, a superintendent in the Victoria Police, confirmed that of the 751 firearms handed in, a majority were long guns. “A lot of them have come from deceased estates or people who have had a change in life and may have moved from a country property into a metropolitan area, and therefore they’ve handed their firearms in,” Superintendent Millett said. “Our position on this is that one firearm off the street is a win for the Victorian community.”
The amnesty comes at a time of violence in north Melbourne, where two shootings this week have alarmed residents and led to speculation about a possible rise in gang violence. On Wednesday, a 21-year-old was fatally shotoutside a home in Roxburgh Park. And in the early hours Friday, two teenagers were wounded by gunfire in what the police believed was a clash between gang factions.
Still, while the last nationwide firearms amnesty in 1996 was hailed as a success for Australia, the most important changes over the last 20 years may have been in the public’s attitude toward gun safety. For example, Professor Alpers said, Australians are now more likely to believe that the person most at risk from a firearm in the home is a member of their own family, either from suicide or accidents.
“Try telling gun owners that 15 years ago — they largely laughed at you,” he said. “Now they’re starting to take it far more seriously.”
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