Two key Government agencies responsible for firearms monitoring, research and tracing have confirmed to the SSAA that theft from licensed firearm owners is not the main source of supply to the black market, exposing the Greens’ commonly used argument for what it is: a lie.
In their November 17 letter to SSAA National CEO Tim Bannister, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) made it clear that less than 10 per cent of more than 5000 firearms traced by the ACC were found to be from theft, compared to 31.8 per cent found to be untraceable, therefore likely never registered or owned by a licence holder. The ACC pointed to the ‘grey market’, consisting of longarms not handed in during the post-1996 buy-backs, as the main firearms traced (45.2 per cent). However, there is no evidence to suggest that licensed firearm owners of today are hoarding these unregistered firearms. The SSAA argues it is more likely that those in possession of grey market firearms never bothered obtaining a licence following the introduction of the National Firearms Agreement (NFA).
The letter, written by Chris Dawson APM in his capacity as CEO of the ACC and director of the AIC, addressed a previous letter from the SSAA in which we raised our concerns about comments made by former South Australian Greens Senator Penny Wright during the Senate Inquiry into gun-related violence. Ms Wright has time and time again pointed an accusing finger at licensed firearm owners as being the key source for the black market. “It is an inconvenient fact for gun advocates that the primary source of illicit guns is theft - as stated by the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Institute of Criminology - and many of those guns have been stolen from legal owners,” she said. We also questioned the accuracy of claims made by New South Wales Greens MP David Shoebridge, who has publically touted that “just one per cent of illegal firearms come from illegal imports”.
This letter proves such claims made members of the Australian Greens Party to be false. The SSAA therefore strongly suggests the Greens and other anti-gun groups take heed of the facts surrounding the reality of the illicit market, as clearly outlined by the AIC and ACC in this latest document.
Another key point Mr Dawson outlined is the reality of the illicit market and its true size, with the firearms trace data used by the ACC providing “a high quality sample of the illicit firearm market”. “The size and source of the illicit firearm market in Australia can never be definitively determined due to a lack of firearm records prior to the 1996 National Firearms Agreement,” he wrote. “ACC firearm trace data...is currently the only source of information available to develop a national picture of potential trends in diversion from the licit to illicit firearm market.”
Mr Dawson pointed to four key areas of supply to the black market, including illegal importation of undeclared firearms and firearm parts; theft from licensed firearm owners and firearm dealers, including suspected staged theft; domestically manufactured and assembled firearms; and a failure to record or reconcile the interstate movement of firearms.
Mr Dawson also explained the ACC’s firearms trace data only includes seized firearms voluntarily handed over for tracing, with the current data based on more than 5000 firearms seized between 2004 and 2014. Mr Dawson confirmed that a report on the current environment was due to be released by the end of 2015.
While the letter confirms the true contribution of theft from licensed firearm to the illicit market, the SSAA reminds our members and licensed firearm owners alike to continue to adhere to the storage requirements applicable in each state, as per our ongoing Secure Your Gun, Secure Your Sport campaign.