Customs’ handgun seizure claim off-target by 135 per cent

Reports that undeclared handguns intercepted at the border have increased by a whopping 135 per cent across two years have been found to be grossly inaccurate. The error was discovered by the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia’s Legislative Action department while analysing the latest Australian Customs and Border Protection Service annual report.

In what appears to be human error, the report’s claim that “the number of undeclared handguns detected at the border has increased by almost 60 per cent including several deliberate attempts at concealing complete handguns through the international mail stream” also appears in the Customs 2013-14 annual report, word for word.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told the SSAA that the 60 per cent figure is “inaccurate and the Department will issue a correction with the next report” - due out in 12 months’ time. The real figures saw 13 undeclared handguns seized in 2014-2015 compared to 49 in 2013-14, equating to a 135 per cent error being published in an official government document.

The erroneous claims have already been reported without question in some News Corp print publications, including the story ‘Gun, drug numbers soaring’ in The Advertiser on February 22.

Kate Fantinel from SSAA Legislative Action said the SSAA often queries the validity of statistics and figures released by government departments and agencies, including the oft-repeated claim that there are more than 250,000 unregistered longarms and 10,000 unregistered handguns currently in circulation.

“It is our contention that there are easily more than a million unregistered firearms in the community. A substantial number of these are illegal firearms from overseas markets imported undetected through our porous borders,” she said.

“Previous incorrect statistics from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) took close to three years to be corrected in the public realm; in this case, it will be 12 months until the public record is set straight.

“While the SSAA clearly supports the efforts of Customs in intercepting undeclared firearms, an accurate assessment is paramount in tracking progress and ensuring enough resources are being spent stopping the importation of such products, whether it be guns or illicit drugs.

“We congratulate Customs on its recent success in cutting red tape for firearm imports and exports, but by the same token, it is clear more resources are required to enable a more accurate analysis of current detection statistics.”

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