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Firearms control thrown in spotlight as gun numbers rise

New report finds the main problem in Australia is "criminals getting their hands on legal guns that have been stolen or lost by lawful owners".
New report finds the main problem in Australia is "criminals getting their hands on legal guns that have been stolen or lost by lawful owners".

THE number of guns in Australian homes is now just as high as it was at the time of the Port Arthur Massacre, a university report has revealed.

Research shows that at the time 35 were killed and 23 injured in Tasmania in 1996, 3.2 million firearms were held in Australia.

According to the Australian, a University of Sydney report revealed that following the Howard Government's gun reforms and the melting down of more than a million guns, the risk of an Australian dying by gunshot fell by more than half.

Professor Phillip Alpers said in the report "only time would tell what impact restocking would have" and told the Australian that while the majority of new guns were not semi-automatic, military-style guns banned under the reforms, "it only takes one bullet, and the great majority of gun deaths are domestics and suicides".

In NSW, where gun crime is at an all-time high, Premier Barry O'Farrell has introduced tough legislation which prevents the sale of ammunition to a shooter unless the purchaser is a registered owner and requires licensed firearms dealers to register the sale of ammunition.

The bill, which passed through the Lower House last year, has been criticised by politicians on both sides for not tackling the real problem.

Speaking against the bill in Parliament last July, Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser said the changes would only inconvenience retailers, firearms owners, farmers and sporting groups and would not "take one stray gun off the street" or "one bullet out of the hands of criminals who wish to use them illegally".

According the report, the main problem in Australia is "criminals getting their hands on legal guns that have been stolen or lost by lawful owners".

In April last year, up to 20 AR-15 assault rifles, the same make and model used in the Port Arthur massacre, were discovered by NSW police in the biggest weapons supply bust in the state's history.

More recently, two men were arrested in Sydney for allegedly heading a gun supply route between Australia and the US city of Nashville.

The university report has been prepared for a summit which will look at Australia's gun controls and forward recommendations to the US Government following the primary school massacre in Colorado last month where 20 children and six teachers were killed.

Topics:  barry o'farrell firearms gun control guns nsw government research weapons



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