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Out of the darkness and into the right hands - Amnesty uncovers 50,000 guns

The inclusion of gun dealers and an option to register or sell legal firearms has paved the way for high participation rates in the national firearms amnesty. The SSAA successfully lobbied the Federal Government to base the three-month amnesty on the successful Queensland version, with most states and territories adopting this proven model.

From the available data, it is clear the jurisdictions that allowed dealers to process firearms at gunshops and enabled licence holders to register or sell items yielded better results than those that adopted less flexible amnesty models. The guarantee that historical items would be preserved, instead of sending them to the scrapheap, has also been attributed to encouraging higher participation rates.

While more than 50,000 items were reportedly captured in the amnesty, which ran from July 1 to September 30, the overall outcome remains unclear. Some jurisdictions were still compiling results on exactly how many firearms have been registered instead of simply “handed in” at time of writing. Some police departments have been forthcoming with their respective results, with available data and noteworthy firearms examined by the SSAA Legislative Action department.

We will continue to pursue all the facts on behalf of our membership, to paint a complete picture of the first nationwide amnesty.

Australian Capital Territory

A total of 699 firearms and 95 firearm-related items were uncovered during the amnesty, along with around 275 kilograms of ammunition. This included 108 shotguns, 430 rifles, 29 self-loading firearms, one automatic firearm and 131 handguns. Of these, 65 firearms have since been registered.

One of the more interesting finds was a Queensland Police issue 1874 Martini-Henry rifle, which has been gifted to the Queensland Police museum, while a non-functioning German ME8 Maxim machine-gun is now being held at the Australian War Memorial. Another noteworthy item was a genuine Light Horse leather rifle bucket.

New South Wales

More than 25,000 firearms and firearm-related items were handed in for registration, sale or destruction across New South Wales. This included 13,729 items that have since been registered and an additional 2101 items acquired by dealers. Of this, there were 602 handguns, 1570 shotguns and 130 prohibited items.

Items of interest included 20 SKS assault rifles, eight M1 carbine military self-loading rifles, four sub-machine guns, a Colt AR-15 rifle, a .44 calibre magnum revolver, an Adler 110 shotgun and a Mauser model 1918 T-Gewehr-Bolt Action anti-tank rifle. Other items, including 14 crossbows, 27 suppressors, samurai swords and knives were also handed in.

NSW also held an explosives amnesty that commenced on March 15 and ran until September 14.

Northern Territory

Firearms handed in to the Northern Territory Police during the three-month amnesty totalled 322, with a significant number of these now registered. The cost of the permit to acquire was waived during the amnesty.

Of note was a Fabrique Nationale 1900 32ACP self-loading pistol. The previous holder of the pistol understands that the firearm was carried by former NT police officer and novelist Vic Hall and features in his novel, Outback Policeman.

Queensland

A total of 16,126 firearms were surrendered for registration, safekeeping or destruction in the Sunshine State. Of these, 6897 firearms have been registered to existing firearm licensees, 174 firearms have been stored for safekeeping, 2974 will be destroyed and 6081 were being processed at time of writing.

Historic and collectable firearms were found, including a Webley Mark VI revolver, a Smith & Wesson Hand Ejector Mk II revolver and a number of German Luger self-loading pistols. At least one pre-1920s Japanese Type 26 revolver was handed in, along with a machine-gun shaped camera used to train aircraft gunners during World War I. An antique gentleman’s Colt Derringer pocket pistol was also uncovered.

Queensland had previously run the most successful amnesty in the country, pioneering the model which included involving gun dealers and waiving registration fees.

South Australia

A total tally of 2648 firearms was recorded in South Australia, including a rare WWI 1915 Luger pistol that was left on the counter at the Adelaide Gun Shop. Some of the more bizarre items handed in included some WWI bombs, grenades and two mortar shells that were left at another gunshop, with police called in to shut down the area as a safety precaution.

Inspector Paul Sinor, from the South Australia Police firearms branch, told the ABC that the high participation rates were likely because of the use of gun dealers as processing locations. Initial indications were that around one in three firearms were being registered.

The state is running its own on-going amnesty, which commenced in December 2015.

Tasmania

Nearly 2000 firearms were counted in Tasmania, including 745 shotguns, 1071 rifles and 108 handguns. Two SKS military-style self-loading rifles and a 150-year-old antique Belgian Lefaucheux 9mm pinfire revolver were handed in, along with a tin of original rounds. The revolver was possibly used as protection on mail train services, with discussions underway to donate it to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

A Norinco NZ75 9mm pistol turned up in the south of the state, which had been listed as stolen since 1995. A .222 calibre rifle handed in anonymously was also later determined to have been stolen.

Tasmania has had a permanent firearms amnesty since 1997, with regular police buses deployed across the state as mobile hand-in locations.

Victoria

While Victorians were slow to participate in the amnesty with only 751 firearms recorded by mid-August, 3654 items were counted by September 25. Victoria Police said they had only collected preliminary data and could not provide a breakdown of how many items have been registered.

Victoria Police did note that many participants had not surrendered some items in previous amnesties because their owners were concerned historical items would be destroyed. The ability to register firearms was a key point of difference this time, with a guarantee that collectable and historical items would be preserved for future generations.

Some rare and well-kept firearms were unearthed, which have been donated to local museums, the Victorian Returned Services League or the Australian War Memorial. Other interesting items included swords and a homemade handgun.

Western Australia

On the west coast, 1242 firearms were recorded, including 186 shotguns, 860 rifles, 196 handguns and 65,618 rounds of ammunition. Around 162 requests to register items were received.

Some historic firearms, such as 85 WWI era rifles and handguns, a WWII sub-machine gun, an 1885 BSA, Martini-Henry rifle; an 1878 Enfield rifle; WWII Luger pistols; and a pre-1900 Belgium pistol have been flagged for donation to historical societies or museums.

WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts pointed to a previous amnesty in 2013 for the lower participation rates recorded in the 2017 amnesty.

Table

JurisdictionFirearms receivedFirearms registered
New South Wales2496513729
Queensland161266897
Victoria3654Undeclared
Tasmania1924Undeclared
South Australia2648Undeclared
Australian Capital Territory69965
Western Australia1242162
Northern Territory322Undeclared

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