Jul 28, 2017 1212 Words 5 Pages
Australia’s gun control laws need to change in order to protect innocent civilians from the increasing resurgence of illegal firearms. The system is riddled with loopholes that enable illegal guns to be trafficked from overseas countries. The main issue is that there is a rising increase in illegal firearms and whether Australia’s current laws are enough to combat the ongoing problem. There are problems in the system were illegal guns manage to get through customs due to loopholes in the system. The legislation, cases, stakeholders and recommendation regarding the change in gun laws to prevent illegal firearms will be discussed.
Gun control is defined as the set of laws or policies that maintain regulation of the manufacture, sale, transfer, possession, modification or use of firearms by civilians. There are an estimated total of 260 000 illegal guns on the street in Australia. Australia Border Force are finding 33 guns or firearm parts a week. The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) conducted an investigation into illegal firearms back in 2012. They estimated 10 000 illegal guns in the market. There were 2.75million registered guns held by 730 000 licence holders. In the 18 years prior to 1996 Australia experienced 13 mass shootings in which 104 victims were killed with at least 52 were wounded. Since the introduction of tougher gun control laws there have been no mass shootings since that time period.
The relevant Queensland legislation surrounding gun control and licensing is the Weapons Regulation Act 2016. The act states that possession or use of a weapon, or category of weapon, unlawful to extent another class of license is needed to authorise the possession or use. It also states that possession of a weapon for transport not authorised unless necessarily incidental to licence activities. There are limitations on the weapons’ physical possession and use under licence held by a body. There is federal law that aims to have the same laws regarding firearms between all states of Australia. The National Firearms Agreement constitutes a national approach to the regulation of firearms. It affirms that the possession of a firearm and its use is a privilege as to ensure public safety and that safety is improved by the safe, responsible possession, carriage, use, registration, storage and transfer of firearms. It sets out minimum requirement to the regulation of firearms.
The case of the fatal shooting of Brete Forte is a prime of example of the impact illegal firearms have on the safety of civilians. The case involved a police officer being deliberately shot by Ricky Maddison after gunfight with SERT officers, following an overnight siege in a farmhouse at adare, near Gatton. Senior Constable Brett Forte attempted to stop the fugitive’s car on a road at Seventeen Mile in the Lockyer Valley. It has been alleged that the firearm that was used by Maddison was illegal. Maddison was shot dead by police. The case had a severe impact on the local area and Queensland’s police service with law enforcement support ribbons being worn around the community.
Another case that highlights the impact of legal firearms in the wrong hands was when Martin Bryant in 1996 opened fire with two semi-automatic rifles and killed 35 innocent people and wounded 23 others in Tasmania. The gun was an AR-15 rifle with a 30-shot magazine and Bryant exchanged it for a semi-automatic .308 FN rifle. Both were legal in Tasmania at the time. He eventually pleaded guilty to 72 charges including murder, attempted murder, causing grievous bodily harm and arson. On November 22, 1996 he was sentenced to serve 35 life sentences without parole. The Port Arthur massacre had a major impact to Australia’s gun laws back in 1996 and changed them forever. It became the worst single-person shooting in Australia’s history; and is still the third wost reordered worldwide.
A third case that elucidates the current loopholes in the current legal system was a case involving a South Australian farmer, Stephen Zilm, who was charged with importing and possessing prohibited goods. He ordered three solvent traps on a US website with the intention of making silences used for pest control on his farm. Zilm understood firearm silencers were illegal when he imported the traps, but said he did not understand that importing material to make them was also illegal. Zilm pleaded guilty, received a three-month suspended sentence for the importation charge and a four month suspended sentence for the possession charged. He was also sentenced on a 12-month good behaviour bond.
Justice Minister Michael Kennan wants to increase the severity of the current gun laws. As he said “tough sentences for illegal firearm trafficking sends a strong message that gun related crime and violence is a serious threat to the safety of all Australians”. He has also stated that a gun amnesty proposed to start from July 1 for three months will take illegal guns of the street.
Former Prime Minister John Howard, who introduced national gun control laws after the Port Arthur massacre, says that the laws are inadequate and need tightening. He wants to encourage sensible strengthening of the existing laws because once you give people access to weapons and those people snap or exhibit a mental illness, then you will have a tragedy.
Senator Leyonhjelm who is a shooting enthusiast said he wants existing bans lifted. He also mentioned that Australia’s gun control laws are not based on current data but were an “emotional reaction” to the Port Arthur massacre. He also says “if you’ve been exposed to them, unless we’ve had the fun of competing in sport with guns and know that they are a lot of fun as they are not all about killing people.”
Recommendations have been suggested in order to further tighten Australia’s current gun control laws in order to stop illegal firearms from entering the country. Amnesty’s, in which people who own illegal guns can hand in their firearms without any questions being asked by authorities, is one suggested strategy. Tougher penalties could be introduced. Loopholes allow owners to amass myriad weapons and purchase semi-automatic handguns. For example thousands of Adler A110 rapid-fire lever-action shotguns have been imported because they do not fall under the toughest controls. Although they have been temporarily banned, some gun enthusiasts are importing different versions to beat the ban. These recommendations must be considered in order to combat the ongoing problem of illegal firearms.
Illegal firearms that are out on the street put everybody’s lives at risk from police officers to Australia’s citizens. The Port Arthur massacre had a major effect on society because people weren’t expecting such a horrible tragedy to happen in Australia. The event has left survivors both mentally and physically scarred. The shootings also impact the families of the victims as they mourn for their family impacts. Laws have to be tightened in order to avoid situations like these.
To summarise, Australia’s gun control laws need to be tightened in order to protect civilians from the ongoing problem of illegal firearms. Suggestions to improve the laws could be to implement through more amnesties, having tougher penalties and to tighten loopholes that enable illegal firearms into the country. Again for the protection on innocent Australians, gun control laws must be tightened in order to combat the ongoing rise of illegal firearms.
Jul 28, 2017 1212 Words 5 Pages