Australian Institute of Criminology

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Latest AIC report shows firearms theft declining

Media Release

19 December 2007

A new report released today from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) shows that the incidence of reported firearms theft in Australia has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s, but that ensuring safe storage of firearms remains an issue for law enforcement.

"The Firearms theft in Australia 2005-06 report is the first of four annual reports to come out of the National Firearms Theft Monitoring Program," said AIC Director, Dr Toni Makkai. "The Monitoring Program is one of a kind in Australia and draws on data from all jurisdictions".

"With the co-operation of state and territory police, we look at the sorts of firearms that are commonly stolen and the modus operandi of firearms thefts," Dr Makkai said. "We also examine how well firearms owners are complying with safe storage requirements, and also if stolen firearms are being used in subsequent illegal activities".

The report shows that approximately 5,170 firearms were stolen in 1995-96, dropping to 3,138 in 1998-99. During the past two and a half years, however, this total has halved again with between 1,400 and 1,500 firearms stolen annually.

Firearms were largely stolen from private residential premises and, to a lesser extent, business premises. Rifles and shotguns made up the bulk of firearms stolen while handguns represented less than 10 percent of firearms stolen.

"While owners storing firearms in buildings generally made some attempt to secure the premises and the firearms within the premises, the issue of firearms stolen from unsecured premises remains a problem", said Dr Makkai. "The report shows that fewer than six in 10 owners were considered to have complied with legislative requirements regarding storage".

"Mostly, non-compliant storage involved cases where receptacles were unlocked, firearms were stored in non-approved receptacles (such as cupboards or wardrobes), left in vehicles or were generally unsecured".

Today's report also shows that of the two-thirds of cases where information is available, only a small number of reported stolen firearms were later used in illegal activities, including murder, domestic violence and armed robbery.