Permanent gun amnesty recovers almost 18,000 weapons, including flamethrower, in first year
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Almost 18,000 firearms and weapons have been surrendered during the first year of a permanent national amnesty, but authorities remain unsure about just how many rifles, shotguns and handguns remain in the community.
The amnesty was set up in mid-2021, to complement existing state and territory schemes — and followed amnesties announced after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, and a three-month program in 2017.
The program's annual report, released today, revealed 17,543 firearms and weapons were surrendered from July 1, 2021, through to June 30, 2022, along with 606 firearms parts and accessories.
New South Wales recorded the largest haul, with 6,704 weapons and firearms surrendered. And 2,352 were destroyed as a result of being surrendered.
Across the country, more than 8,000 rifles and almost 3,000 shotguns were surrendered, while almost 2 tonnes of ammunition were collected in the ACT, New South Wales and Tasmania.
In the nation's capital, a Vietnam War-era flamethrower was among the weapons surrendered to ACT Policing.
"I think that making the amnesty a permanent one is a very good measure," Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.
"I'm hoping that it produces the outcome that people will become aware that they can hand in their unregistered, unwanted firearms, and that they've got a pathway to do it."
The permanent amnesty also allows other weapons, such as crossbows and tasers, to be handed in.
Australia has some of the toughest gun laws anywhere in the world. That is largely due to the response to the Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were murdered and 23 were injured.
The tragedy led to restrictions on the sale of automatic and semi-automatic weapons across the country, as well as a temporary buyback and amnesty scheme which resulted in the surrender of almost 650,000 firearms.
The annual report cited data from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in 2016, which estimated there were about 260,000 illegal firearms across the country.
But it also noted the "exact extent of the Australian illicit firearms market cannot be determined as no historical data is available on its size prior to the implementation of the National Firearms Agreement in 1996".
"We know that individuals who hold unregistered firearms are less likely to inform police when they're stolen, which makes unregistered firearms an attractive target for criminal organisations," Mr Dreyfus said.
"The permanent firearms amnesty removes any disincentive from handing in an unwanted and unregistered weapon."
Of 247 people who took part in the amnesty and answered a survey as to why they wanted to surrender their firearm, almost half responded that they simply did not want the weapon anymore.
The data revealed 23.5 per cent had obtained the firearm as a family heirloom, while 21.1 per cent had been given it by a family member or friend.
The Attorney-General said that might well be a common occurrence.
"Perhaps on going through the property of a deceased family member, they find that there's a gun tucked away in the cupboard or in the attic, and they don't want to have that gun," Mr Dreyfus said.
"Appropriately, they should hand it in."
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