Time To Learn From the Australian Experience In Gun Control
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
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Over nine thousand four hundred miles away from us, the land of Aussies also have had similar experience in the gun arena in the past. In the last two decades of the twentieth century, following several high-profile killing sprees, the Australian Federal Government coordinated more restrictive firearms legislation with all state governments. Gun laws were largely aligned in 1996 by the National Firearms Agreement, following shooting incidents at Port Arthur by a person with mental health issue.
Gun laws in Australia are mainly the jurisdiction of the country’s states and territories, with the importation of guns regulated by the Federal Government. A person who possesses or uses a firearm must have a firearm licence. License holders must demonstrate a “genuine reason” for holding a firearm license and must not be a “prohibited person”. All firearms in Australia must be registered by serial number to the owner, who also holds a firearms license.
Below, is excerpt from the Executive Summary from Library of Congress of Australia, in italics:
The sale, possession, and use of firearms are regulated by the Australian states and territories, with cross-border trade matters addressed at the federal level. In 1996, following the Port Arthur massacre, the federal government and the states and territories agreed to a uniform approach to firearms regulation, including a ban on certain semiautomatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns, standard licensing and permit criteria, storage requirements and inspections, and greater restrictions on the sale of firearms and ammunition. Firearms license applicants would be required to take a safety course and show a “genuine reason” for owning a firearm, which could not include self-defense. The reasons for refusing a license would include “reliable evidence of a mental or physical condition which would render the applicant unsuitable for owning, possessing or using a firearm.” A waiting period of twenty-eight days would apply to the issuing of both firearms licenses and permits to acquire each weapon.
Alongside legislative reforms to implement the National Firearms Agreement, a national buyback program for prohibited weapons took place in 1996-1997 and resulted in more than 700,000 weapons being surrendered. Further reforms were later implemented as a result of agreements made in 2002 on firearms trafficking and handguns, as was a national buyback of newly prohibited handguns and associated parts.
A large amount of information and analysis is available regarding the number of firearms in Australia and their use in crimes or incidents resulting in death. The most recent relevant report of the Australian Institute of Criminology states that the “number of victims of firearm-perpetrated homicide (i.e. murder and manslaughter) has declined by half between 1989–90 and 2009–10 from 24 to 12 percent.” Recent reports have also examined the number of illicit firearms and firearm thefts in Australia. Among the activities relating to gun control that took place in 2012 was the signing of a new intergovernmental agreement to tackle illicit firearms and firearms trafficking.
- National Firearms Agreement (1996);
- National Firearm Trafficking Policy Agreement (2002); and
- National Handgun Control Agreement (2002).
The ownership, possession and use of firearms in Australia is regulated by state laws. The Australian state and territory laws regulating firearms are:
- New South Wales: Firearms Act 1996, Weapons Prohibition Act 1998, and associated regulations
- Victoria: Firearms Act 1996 and associated regulations
- Queensland: Weapons Act 1990 and associated regulations
- Western Australia: Firearms Act 1973 and associated regulations
- South Australia: Firearms Act 1977 and associated regulations
- Tasmania: Firearms Act 1996 and associated regulations
- Northern Territory: Firearms Act and associated regulations
- Australian Capital Territory: Firearms Act 1996, Prohibited Weapons Act 1996, and associated regulations.
At the federal level, the importation of firearms is subject to the restrictions in Regulation 4F and Schedule 6 of the Customs (Prohibited Goods) Regulations 1956 (Cth).
According to FactCheck.org: In fact, the most recent government report on crime trends in Australia says, “Homicide in Australia has declined over the last 25 years. The current homicide incidence rate is the lowest on record in the past 25 years.”
Perhaps it is high time for us, the Americans, to learn a few thing from our friends in Australia.
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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