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Reality check - low gun theft rates recorded nationwide

Australia might be awash with illegal firearms, but the evidence is clear: the vast majority are not stolen from licensed firearm owners. The SSAA Legislative Action (SSAA-LA) department has analysed data from Australia’s police forces and statistics agencies, with the figures proving that the real rate of gun thefts is minuscule, despite what anti-gun zealots say.

Reports that gun owners in New South Wales have almost one million registered firearms between them were jumped on by notorious Greens MP David Shoebridge earlier this year, in what can be described as a shameless attempt to scare the public. Disappointingly, Mr Shoebridge failed to acknowledge the owners of these firearms are essentially the most law-abiding citizens in the country, vetted by police and under constant scrutiny.

The reality is, of the 724 firearms reportedly stolen in New South Wales in 2014/15, out of around 915,000 registered firearms, the theft rate equates to a measly 0.08 per cent. Across the border in Queensland, a Right to Information request by News Corp revealed that 779 firearms were reported as stolen in 2016, from around 825,000 registered firearms. This means that the theft rate in the Sunshine State is just 0.09 per cent.

In the most up-to-date figures available, other states also boast low firearm theft rates. Tasmania recorded 250 guns as stolen in 2015/16, equating to a 0.19 per cent theft rate out of 131,000 firearms; an average of 574 firearms stolen annually in South Australia, out of 294,446 firearms, works out to be 0.19 per cent. An average of 496 firearms stolen annually in Western Australia, out of 270,392 registered firearms, denotes a 0.18 per cent theft rate.

The nation’s two territories again recorded small theft rates. An average of 22 firearms stolen annually in the Australian Capital Territory, out of 19,200 registered firearms, equates to a 0.11 per cent theft rate, while the Northern Territory tallied a 0.04 per cent rate from 23 stolen guns, out of 57,804.

Our counterparts at SSAA Victoria sourced figures from the Crime Statistics Agency that showed between April 2016 and March 2017, 760 firearms were reported as stolen ‑ a rate of 0.10 per cent out of around 750,000 registered firearms. SSAA Victoria did question the validity of the data as the firearm type stolen was not documented in some incidents.

SSAA-LA’s Kate Fantinel said that the small rate of firearms theft recorded across the board discredits anti-gun groups who continue to misrepresent the reality of gun thefts. “These are independent statistics from the police and government agencies, so to go around saying theft from law-abiding firearm owners is somehow the key contributor to the nation’s illicit firearms market is simply untrue,” she said. “Law-abiding gun owners go to great lengths to adhere to the storage requirements, so when a rare incident of firearm theft occurs, which is usually opportunistic instead of targeted, it is a bit rich for anti-gun zealots to blame the victim and make hysterical calls for stricter laws.”

With the Australian Government pointing to 250,000 longarms and 10,000 handguns circulating within the illicit market at present, it is clear that realistic sources of supply need to be addressed. “We implore legislators to take a close look at where vital policing and law enforcement resources are being spent, when the problem is clearly illicit imports and serious and organised crime, not the nation’s one million law-abiding firearm owners,” said Kate.

In the meantime, the SSAA will continue to be proactive in educating new and seasoned shooters about the importance of safe storage, via the ongoing Secure Your Gun, Secure Your Sport campaign. We will also continue to remind lawmakers to base firearms policy on the statistics and facts, not emotion or innuendo.

Theft from licensed firearm owners

 Registered firearms*Stolen guns*Rate of theft*
Australian Capital Territory19,200220.11 per cent
New South Wales915,0007240.08 per cent
Northern Territory57,804230.04 per cent
Queensland825,0007790.09 per cent
South Australia294,4465740.19 per cent
Tasmania131,0002500.19 per cent
Victoria750,0007600.10 per cent
Western Australia270,3924960.18 per cent

This table clearly shows the annual theft rate from licensed firearm owners is minimal.

*Figures based on latest available known registered firearms and stolen guns, as declared by police or research agencies.

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