Sat, Sep 09, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Australian amnesty drive collects 26,000 firearms

IN TERROR’S WAKE:A two-month national gun amnesty window, the first of its kind since 1996, was announced partly in response to the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis

The Guardian

Nearly 26,000 firearms have been handed over to Australian authorities in the past two months in a nationwide gun amnesty.

Australian Minister of Justice Michael Keenan yesterday said the haul is a “great result” and demonstrates that Australians are serious about protecting themselves and their families, handing in an average of 464 firearms a day since July 1.

Thousands of firearms have been collected in New South Wales (13,468), Queensland (7,000), Victoria (2,150), Tasmania (1,136) and South Australia (1,338).

People in the Australian Capital Territory (264), Western Australia (521) and the Northern Territory (122) have handed in hundreds.

The amnesty was one of the measures agreed to by state and territory governments in February as part of the revised National Firearms Agreement.

The revised agreement was prompted in part by the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis, which led the government of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to undertake a review of the 1996 firearms agreement that was put in place by the government of then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard after the Port Arthur massacre.

This year’s amnesty was also precipitated by a steady increase in the number of unregistered firearms in Australia, which law enforcement and intelligence agencies estimated earlier this year to number approximately 260,000.

“There are now only three weeks remaining to hand in firearms under the amnesty and I encourage Australians to continue to take advantage of the amnesty period to help remove unregistered firearms from the community,” Keenan said. “As we know, just one firearm in the wrong hands can be deadly.”

The amnesty is to end on Sept. 30. It allows anyone with unwanted or unregistered firearms or firearm-related items to legally dispose of them at approved drop-off points in every state and territory. There is no cost involved with surrendering a firearm and no personal details are required.

Outside the amnesty period, anyone caught with an unregistered firearm faces a fine of up to A$280,000 (US$226,550), up to 14 years in jail and a criminal record.

Keenan said that among the more unusual firearms handed over in the past two months have been a Beaumont Adams revolver circa 1856, a World War I-era Lee Enfield rifle and two World War II US M1 carbines.

The amnesty is the first nationwide gun amnesty since 1996, when the Howard government responded to the Port Arthur massacre by allowing owners of illegal firearms to hand in weapons without penalty.

The Port Arthur shooting in April 1996 ended with the deaths of 35 people at the popular tourist site in Tasmania.

The gunman, Martin Bryant, was given 35 life sentences.

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