Senate Inquiry into Gun-related Violence
SUA PRESIDENT GRAHAM PARK’S OPENING STATEMENT
Senators, Thank you for the invitation to participate.
18 years ago Australia began a huge social experiment.
With the stated intent and hope that this experiment in highly restrictive laws would make Australia a safer country using the federally driven National Firearms Agreement (NFA).
So began one of the largest mass confiscations of private property in the history of any modern western democracy, followed by an ongoing radical shift in private firearms ownership and law enforcement focus.
However, in the 18 years since that time, all objective and credible evidence strongly suggests that not only has this huge social experiment failed to make any significant difference in violence levels in Australia, BUT that it has likely reduced the ability of Australian police agencies to combat violence (and especially gun-related violence) in our communities.
Since 1996, New Zealand, Canada and the USA have all experienced a lowering of homicides equal to or substantially greater than (and in the case of the USA, almost double the drop of) Australia, and NONE of those nations have felt the need to enact such restrictive legislation on legitimate firearms use and ownership.
In fact both New Zealand AND Canada have now totally abandoned the concept of any type of long arms registration due to cost explosions and ineffectiveness brought on by technological advances.
The concept of government registries and manually generated PTA’s is nothing more than a holdover from a time before electronic data retention and is not only completely ineffective but incredibly expensive to maintain.
However, here in Australia the vast majority of state and federal law enforcement resources and strategy are now (and have been for 18 years) mistakenly focused on spending massive amounts of their time and efforts monitoring and restricting the activities just one sector of society, the licensed firearm owner.
Which every statistic, every example, shows are responsible for almost NO gun related violence.
The NFA experiment has diverted massive financial and strategic resources away from combatting violent crime and towards bureaucratic micromanagement and control of farmers, competitive target shooters, antique collectors and other licensed firearm owners, (a grouping of arguably the least likely people in the nation to commit any type of crime).
This massive diversion of police strategy and resources away from active crime fighting and into bureaucratic roles has greatly diminished police abilities to focus on the more than 95% of violent crimes not committed by legitimate firearm owners.
This experiment has already cost Australia potentially more than $2 Billion so far and continues to cost as much as $340 million more each year in combined ongoing costs.
(approx. $100 mill maintain registries, PTAs, licences etc + 60 mill++ in physical audits and safe inspections police costs +$180 Mill in feral animal damage – total feral damage is estimated at least $720 mill annually and has risen dramatically since reduction in firearms access in 96 , we used a minimal 25% of the annual cost as being related to legal changes)
At a time of limited budgets and reduced funding for education, mental health and other critical programs, surely Australian governments have a responsibility to seriously consider reforming and streamlining this deeply flawed social experiment.
No matter how well intentioned any legislation may be, it needs to stand up to the simple test of “is it effective”.
If we really want to assist law enforcement to radically lower violence of all types in our community then we should redirect law enforcement back to focusing on violent crime and criminals.