Press release from the Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice, Minister for Defence Materiel
Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Justice Jason Clare today unveiled the next stage of a major reform program to crack down on the illegal firearms market in Australia.
Operation Unification is a national public awareness campaign that encourages people to anonymously identify criminals who possess illegal firearms to police.
The campaign is part of a package of reforms agreed to by Ministers at the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management in 2012.
The campaign will run from Friday 24 May until Friday 7 June and will be run in collaboration between state and territory police forces and CrimeStoppers Australia.
Minister Clare said the CrimeStoppers hotline would enable people to anonymously and safely identify to police someone who has an illegal firearm.
“Criminals use firearms to terrorise our communities. Victims usually know who their attacker is, but they are too afraid to tell police. We have to break this code of silence. This hotline will allow victims to anonymously dob in someone they know has an illegal firearm,” Mr Clare said.
The police will use the information to seize the illegal firearms, arrest and prosecute the criminals who use them.
“This will give police the information they need to seize more guns and catch more crooks.”
Minister Clare said that this campaign was targeted at those possessing illegal firearms, not licensed shooters.
“This is not about firearms owned by licensed shooters. This is about illegal firearms. The firearms that are being used in drive by shootings in Western Sydney and in gangland hits in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane.” Mr Clare said.
According to a national investigation of the illegal firearms market conducted by the Australian Crime Commission last year, it is estimated that there are a quarter of a million firearms in the hands of criminals - more than 250,000 long arms and 10,000 hand guns in the illicit firearms market.
The campaign is part of a package of major reforms agreed to in 2012, including:
- The introduction of tough new penalties by the Commonwealth to allow a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for firearms trafficking offences making the maximum penalty for trafficking in firearms the same as the maximum penalty for trafficking in drugs. This legislation passed the House of Representatives in February 2013.
- Rolling-out the Australian Ballistics Identification Network nationwide to capture the unique ballistic signature of firearms across the country. Once complete, this will build a database of all weapons used in crimes recovered by Police in every State and Territory.
- Work to establish a National Firearms Interface, which is critical to sharing information between law enforcement agencies around the country – and allows a firearm to be tracked through the course its life. There are currently over 30 different registries and databases across federal, state and territory agencies which are not linked.
- Expansion of the ACC’s Firearm Tracing Capability, which will be enabled by the referral of data on all stolen firearms from states and territories for tracing and analysis. The ACC will also undertake investigations into the illegal firearms market over the next two years.
- Bringing out firearms training experts from the US Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau to Australia to train State and Federal police, and customs officers. That training took place earlier in February 2013.
“The reforms are designed to tackle the illicit firearms market from every angle – to seize illegal firearms, to break the code of silence, to improve our ability to trace illegal firearms, to strengthen laws and harden the border.” Mr Clare said.
Members of the community who have information regarding people they know who possess illicit firearms are encouraged to call CrimeStoppers on 1800 333 000 or www.crimestoppers.com.au