Between July 1 and September 30, the Australian Federal Government will run a mass illegal firearm amnesty. For three months, anyone with an illegal, unregistered, or unwanted guns can dispose of it at police stations throughout Australia. This will be the first national illegal weapon amnesty in 20+ years.
The Federal Government recreated the program from 20 years ago, save for at least one element. In 1996, the program was a buyback program where the government paid people to turn in weapons. This time, gun owners will not receive any monetary compensation for turning in a firearm.
Authorities hope to eliminate some of the suspected 260,000 illegal firearms out of circulation. Those skeptical of the amnesty believe that it will do nothing to stop terror or criminals. Vice-president of Gun Control Australia, Roland Browne, told The World Today that “amnesties are good in the sense that they take guns out of the hands of the community who don’t need them and that’s especially helpful in the case of suicide.” But, he continued, “if you are dealing with people who are hellbent on causing terror, they are not going to hand in their guns.”
Sydney University gun policy analyst Philip Alpers said that the amnesty would only collect weapons that already lacked usefulness. He added that the guns would already be considered worthless by both legal owners and criminals.
The weapons most sought after were often of the automatic or semi-automatic variety. This 2017 amnesty follows the recent murder of Senior Constable Brett Forte. A career criminal, Rick Maddison, turned an illegal, semi-automatic weapon on Forte in the active line of duty. Those are the weapons the government wants to remove from the hands of criminals. Asking them to turn in their expensive guns for free, with no repercussions pertaining to the weapon itself, is hoped to do just that.
According to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), these criminals purchase the guns from overseas. The US lack of oversight on private gun sales makes it easy for weapons to slip under the radar. Smugglers then ship them to places like Australia with “relative anonymity, especially where transactions are made using emerging technologies and business practices, such as the Darknet and freight-forwarding service.”
“We must protect our communities and our police on the beat who should not have to face the risk of being shot, particularly by illegal firearms that have no place on our streets in the first place,” Justice Minister Michael Keenan said. “Australia is world-renowned for the strength of our firearm laws, but illegal firearms do remain a deadly weapon of choice for organized criminals,” Keenan said during the announcement.
The ACIC report explained that many of the guns were smuggled into Australia by the same criminal groups that trafficked drugs. Also, “Middle Eastern crime gangs” and “outlaw motorcycle clubs.” Australia has a large black market for illegal guns, Keenan explained. In an effort to further stop these weapons from being used by criminals, the government is going to impose tighter border controls and screen international mail even more closely.