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Who knows? Majority of criminals’ illicit firearms untraceable

The latest report from the Australian Government’s peak criminal research agency shows that more than 90 per cent of firearms recovered from crimes have never been registered. In contrast, just 8.5 per cent of recovered firearms were traced to theft. While the figures exclude firearms that are yet to be recovered after a crime, the report clearly shows authorities need to focus on exactly where the high quantities of untraceable firearms are coming from.

Released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) this month, the Organised Crime in Australia 2017 report attempts to paint a picture of how serious and organised criminal groups obtain their illicit wares, including firearms. Illegal importation, domestic manufacture and a small amount from theft are the main sources identified.

Illegal importation has long been an issue for law enforcement. The ABC’s Four Corners program highlighted the realities of this earlier this year, depicting how a criminal syndicate had imported more than 130 Glock pistols undetected via a Sydney post office. While the vast majority of these firearms are still missing, one of the Glocks has allegedly been found in the possession of the girlfriend of Sydney identity John Ibrahim. The SSAA Legislative Action (SSAA-LA) department contacted the Australian Federal Police to confirm this, but the AFP would not comment while the case is before the courts.

The report also throws cold water on media beat-ups about 3D-printed firearms. The ACIC found that “the reliability and cost-effectiveness of 3D manufactured firearms fails to match those of factory-produced firearms”. The report did point to dark net websites as a source of illicit firearms that is “likely to continue to be exploited”, as previously reported by the SSAA-LA.

Acting ACIC chief executive officer Nicole Rose described organised crime as “destructive, pervasive and sophisticated”. “Over the past few years, the speed with which global trends have been replicated in Australia has increased, with physical geographic boundaries no longer containing criminal networks,” she said. Ms Rose pointed to law enforcement becoming “more connected” to challenge this.

The SSAA will continue to remind lawmakers about the organised crime threat and the opportunistic ways in which these groups source illicit firearms. At the same time, we will continue to advocate for precious law enforcement resources to be spent addressing the untraceable firearms, instead of overly regulating law-abiding firearm owners.

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