Lee’s note: Here’s a third part — a bonus addendum — of an incredible series that aims to educate Americans about the realities of Australia’s gun control experiment. It was written for us by Justin Luke, a self-described “family man” based in suburban Sydney.
Justin is a passionate advocate of the shooting sports and heritage, and spends as much time as possible exploring, running, climbing and hunting all over the East Coast of Australia.
We’re privileged to have him on board, because we can learn a lot from what happened to gun owners Down Under.
Here’s a link to Part 1.
Here’s a link to Part 2.
Gun Control: The Australian Experience
The Many sins of the Firearms Registry
by Justin Luke
In 1996, Australia began a unique experiment with gun control. Instead of increasing funding for Organised Crime Squads and mental health care (given that, of the 4 massacres carried out in Australia 3 were done by mentally ill people and the fourth was part of a motorcycle gang war), State governments established a firearms registry to record the name, address and firearms owned by every firearms licence holder.
This was sold to the Australian public as an important step in public safety. It was a lie.
After 20 years, the firearms registries are yet to solve or prevent a single crime involving firearms – at a cost to the taxpayer of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Taxpayer funds which would be better invested in mental health, border control, education and health – the fundamental areas which prevent all crime (not just gun crime) in the first place.
Given the hype and fear pumped out by the media and government about firearms, you would think that the records and those who control them would be secured by the highest possible security protocols. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.
Rather than employing sworn police officers with security clearances, the NSW Firearms Registry employs civilian contractors who have no such obligation to the public.
As long ago as 2010, the details of thousands of NSW firearms owners were downloaded onto the unsecured Police intranet, available to
general duties police officers, civilian volunteers and anyone else with access to the intranet. Subsequently, a string of targeted thefts of firearms (particularly a number of cases where the thieves came equipped with cutting equipment and trolleys, removing the gun safe but not stealing other valuables in the house) – gave shooters a grave concern that the data had been leaked to criminals. This gross breach of privacy has never been remedied, with police instead claiming “there is no evidence to show there was a breach” – as if nobody could have copy/pasted onto a flash drive, or just printed a copy and taken it home.
One firearms owner had the police arrive for an annual inspection of their gun safe. During the conversation, the police officer learned that the firearms owner had served in the Australian Defence Forces. He then made comments along the lines of “oh, you’d love to meet the guy I inspected last” – and began to name makes & models of the firearms – an unforgiveable breach of privacy. One wonders if this police officer, when off duty down at the pub, makes similar disclosures to anyone within earshot of who has what guns – the implications are chilling.
How would you feel if the CTP insurance you are forced to buy was leaked to car-rebirthing gangs who targeted your private property because they knew exactly where to go?
But the incompetence goes further than the Police officers who may have firearms duty as only a small part of their job. It goes to the basics of the staff employed to create and manage the very records themselves. One applicant who wished to legally purchase a rifle submitted a Permit To Acquire – the application form that contains details of the firearm and the person who wishes to buy it and where the firearm will be stored. The rifle calibre was “.223 Remington” – an extremely popular calibre used in many rifles around the world. This particular application was not for a Remington brand rifle, but the Permit was issued with “Remington” in the BRAND, not the CALIBER section. This is as if the RTA/RMS/DMV issued your car registration with the engine size as the model type.
Would it be outrageous if the Police would then seize your car because it did not match their records? That’s what a Law Abiding Firearms Owner (LAFO) faces – you would also lose your driver’s licence and face a prison term for possessing a vehicle you were not licenced to have. It is madness when looked at from a vehicle point of view but this is the incompetence that LAFOs have to deal with. Of course, criminals do not bother with such paperwork, importing illegal firearms alongside the illegal drugs, stolen art and other criminal activities.
The public need to realise that the firearms registry does not make them safe from criminals. In fact, the employees of the firearms registry often treat ordinary citizens as criminals – even when no conviction has been recorded. Just this week, The Hon Robert Borsak protested in Parliament about the shocking treatment of a LAFO who was not charged with any crime, yet the Firearms Registry still seized and destroyed his private property.
“Hold on a minute” comes an attempted rebuttal – “Our strict gun laws stopped the 2014 Lindt Café shooter from getting a machine gun – all he was able to get was a sawn off shotgun”. This comment was made by uninformed members of the public and repeated in some form or another in the media.
Let’s examine this statement one element at a time. Calmly and logically.
An unlicensed individual was able to circumvent every method used to stop gun crime: licencing, registration, waiting periods. The strict laws did not stop any element of the crime.
As to his choice of firearm, we will never know for certain why a sawn off pump action shotgun was chosen (since he is dead) but we can make an educated guess. The criminal obtained the cheapest option that was available and would do the job. We know that there are several M72 rocket launchers stolen from the Australian Defence Force which have not been recovered. We know that there are at least 200 Glock pistols imported through Sylvania Post Office which have not been recovered. Recently, a young woman was arrested in Western NSW with a sawn off rifle in her car (strangely enough, she was caught with a quantity of meth as well, confirming the illegal guns – illegal drugs link). Nobody knows what else is available in Australia because there is no way of finding out, but based on these facts alone we can see that the Lindt Café shooter could have obtained either a rocket launcher, sawn off rifle or a Glock pistol but chose the pump action shotgun as it was: 1 – available, 2 – within his price range and 3 – suited to the crime he wished to commit. No laws stopped him from buying a machine gun or a rocket launcher, if he had the desire and the money. He didn’t bother with the firearms registry – why would he?
The firearms registry is a waste of taxpayer money that would be better invested in health care and border control. One of the main purposes of the registry is to supply information that Police can use to trace firearms used in crime. However, in 2015, the report from a Senate Inquiry into eliminating gun violence determined that less than 5% of firearms used in crime were stolen from LAFOs – the vast majority are imported with drugs, of manufactured in backyard labs – often with illegal drugs. One submission to the Senate Inquiry demanded that all police officer and politician names & addresses be added to the registry in order to make them keep the data secure but unsurprisingly, no changes have been made.
This persecution has to stop. The waste of taxpayer money has to stop. The mentality that LAFOs can be treated as criminals without any evidence or fair trial is discriminatory, wrong and has no place in civilised society. Hunting game for the table is an ancient heritage and target shooting is an Olympic sport enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities – especially the disabled who may not be able to swim or play soccer. The level of discipline and self-awareness it instils in young people is to be encouraged and promoted as a valuable factor in future leadership and industry roles.
Alcohol Prohibition was stopped after 13 years. The public accepted that it penalized the wrong people and only gave money and power to crime gangs. It is time the public accepted the same thing about Gun Control. The time has come for Gun Control to go the same way as Prohibition – the dustbin of history.