Australian Institute of Criminology

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Licensed gun owners not responsible for firearm homicides

Media Release

26 July 2000

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

Licensed firearm owners are not responsible for the majority of firearm-related homicides according to research by the Australian Institute of Criminology released today by Senator Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs.

"Licensed gun owners are law-abiding citizens with legitimate reasons for owning the weapons they have."

"In over 90 per cent of firearm-related homicides the offenders are not licensed and the weapons are not registered," Senator Vanstone said.

"In 1998/99 there were 64 firearm-related homicides in Australia, the lowest number since the National Homicide Monitoring Program commenced a decade ago."

"The rate of firearm-related homicide in Australia is 14 times less than the rate in the U-S."

"However, the use of handguns in homicides in Australia has increased from 13% in 1995/96 to 42% in 1998/99. Positively though, not one handgun used in a homicide between 1997 and 1999 was used by a licensed owner. One gun was registered, but to the victim."

"The problem therefore appears to be handguns that are diverted illegally into the black market for criminal use."

"I have already raised this disturbing increase in the diversion of handguns into illegal use with the Australasian Police Ministers' Council and a working group is currently undertaking a comprehensive examination of the use of handguns in crime and relevant policing strategies."

"Clearly this ai paper confirms that the Federal Government was correct in introducing tougher penalties to deter people from importing prohibited goods such as firearms."

"The licensing, registration, and storage requirements imposed by the new firearms regulations have significantly restricted the availability and access to certain firearms."

"The recent ABS data on recorded crime, released last month, showed welcome trends in firearm-related crime. As well as showing that the use of firearms in homicides in the calendar year 1999 fell to its lowest level since 1995, the ABS report showed the use of firearms in all robberies had decreased by more than half between 1993 and 1999 and the proportion of firearms used in armed robberies had also declined from 18% in 1998 to 15% in 1999."

"While these are welcome developments, we should all remember that those at the frontline of fighting crime, who daily face the risks posed by firearms and other dangerous weapons, are sons, daughters, parents and partners. Whenever we talk about crime statistics, it is appropriate to remember the valuable contribution of our police men and women."