Australian Institute of Criminology

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Firearms still being stolen because of security failures by owners

Media Release

12 January 2010

The Australian Institute of Criminology's (AIC) annual firearm theft report reveals many firearm owners continue to lose weapons because they have not been properly secured.

Firearm theft in Australia 2007-08, the fourth annual examination of thefts by the AIC, showed 1,712 firearms were reported stolen by owners in 708 incidents, an increase of 186 from the previous year.

Most of these thefts netted one or two firearms apiece, primarily taken from private residences, apparently opportunistically, during a general burglary usually involving the theft of cash, tools or home entertainment equipment.

The report's author, AIC research analyst Dr Samantha Bricknell, said 44 percent of owners had not complied with firearm storage requirements, leaving them easy prey to thieves in unlocked sheds or unattended vehicles, or stored in wardrobes and cupboards.

"Many owners continue to demonstrate carelessness or negligence in securing unattended firearms, leaving them in unlocked or easily penetrated storage arrangements or making little or no effort to conceal or safeguard them," Dr Bricknell said.

Rifles and shotguns comprise the bulk of stolen firearms (79%), as these are the weapons most commonly in private ownership. Nine percent of stolen firearms were handguns.

Two percent of stolen firearms were known to have been used to commit a subsequent offence, including an attempted murder, a home invasion and armed robberies.

Dr Bricknell said firearms were recovered by police from 13 percent of thefts in 2007-08, which still left a large number of stolen weapons unaccounted for.

"Up to 70 percent of firearms reported stolen each year are not recovered and this remains a major concern," Dr Bricknell said.

"It is possible they are circulated through the criminal community or end up in the hands of people who would rather not go through formal proceedings to acquire a firearm, however their ultimate fates remain uncertain."

To view the paper visit www.aic.gov.au

AIC media contact: Caterina Giugovaz Telephone: 02 6260 9226; Mobile: 0418 221 798.