WHEN someone proposes a solution to a problem that does not exist, you can suspect they have an agenda.
The recent mail-out to Tasmania’s 38,000 shooters about the storage of firearms requirements fall into this category. Last year, the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management released the regulatory impact statement and draft regulations about the changes.
The impact statement has omissions and deficiencies. It does not provide the number of crimes committed with a stolen firearm nor how many gun-owner residences have been burgled without the gun safe being breached nor whether murders have been committed with stolen firearms. This data is needed to establish there is a problem.
Last year, there were 61 instances of firearms stolen from safes. The impact statement says there are on average 200 firearms a year stolen in Tasmania. There are about 130,000 registered firearms, making the percentage stolen 0.15. This is hardly a crisis.
The statement suggests it is fair that gun owners cough up up to $12.5 million in order to be forced to upgrade storage. It justifies this by quoting 2011 Australian Institute of Criminology report, Counting the Cost of Crime, where it was claimed every homicide cost the community $2.7 million. This is grasping at straws since the report makes no mention of firearms. It only mentions homicides, manslaughter and death by culpable driving.
All premature deaths cost the community. The Royal Lifesaving Association recorded 280 drownings last year and put the cost at $1 billion. This is $1 billion more than stolen firearm deaths cost the community.
Perhaps we need to look at disbanding the Firearms Registry. Due to lack of information in the impact statement, I put in a Right to Information application, which resulted in discovering that the registry cost taxpayers $1.3 million last year. Despite this, Tasmania Police was unable to tell me how many stolen firearms were used in hold-ups, wounding or murder nor was it able to data match firearm-owner residences with burglaries. At no time has information from any Australian registry been pivotal in solving any crime.
It is time to disband the registry as New Zealand and Canada have.
Police are powerless to prevent the theft of ATMs with sophisticated security so why would the proposed measures stop firearm thefts?
At no stage in the impact statement is there mention of increasing penalties for theft, possession, or using stolen firearms in the commission of a crime. This demonstrates that police have more of a problem with legitimate firearm ownership than criminals. Firearm owners who don’t have conforming storage will be slugged more to comply than the penalties for convicted firearms thieves.
If parliament is considering making dangerous driving an indictable offence, why isn’t firearm theft being considered since police imply it has the same level of risk?
If you divide 61 breached gun safes by 200 stolen firearms, it becomes apparent that on average these thefts are netting only about three items per burglary. Despite this, the target range of this proposal for electronic surveillance or alarms is 10 or more firearms. It does not take a genius to work out this will eventually become standard for even one long arm. The original proposal was for mandatory increased security where there were 15 or more long arms and/or one handgun. It is already down to 10 or more firearms.
These changes are soft on crime but harsh on law-abiding citizens.
Any firearm owner finding themselves out of pocket as well as other taxpayers should ask their elected representative how much it cost to post out the new requirements to 38,000 shooters. How much will it cost in police man-hours to inspect 38,000 safes? How many man-hours for the back-up inspections to confirm compliance?
Carlo Di Falco is a target shooter, hunter, collector and member of the Shooters and Fishers Party.
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