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Shocking’ 40 per cent surge in gun ownership and registration in NSW


Shocking’ 40 per cent surge in gun ownership and registration in NSW

Figures obtained by the New South Wales Greens show a 40 per cent surge in gun registration in the State over the last 14 years.

There are now more than 850,000 firearms in private hands in Australia’s most populous state.

And Greens MP David Shoebridge says he’s so alarmed by the increase that he will introduce legislation to limit the number of firearms that people can register.

But that has angered gun enthusiasts, as Mandie Sami reports.

MANDIE SAMI: For Kym McEwen there’s no surprise that people from a diverse range of backgrounds and locations own firearms.

KYM MCEWEN: It’s not all rednecks, you’ve got doctors, you’ve got nurses, you’ve got barristers. It’s across the board.

MANDIE SAMI: He’s the secretary of the central coast branch of the Shooters and Fishers Party, and he’s also the secretary of the New South Wales Sporting & Recreation Club.

As the owner of 12 registered firearms he’s also not surprised to see that the number of registered guns has gone up across NSW.

KYM MCEWEN: Last weekend I was out at Bathurst helping a farmer eradicate some foxes and I was there with a doctor, I was there with a mechanic, I was there with two police officers and I was there myself. A wide variety of people that get into the shooting.

MANDIE SAMI: More than 850,000 firearms are legally registered in New South Wales.

In 22 of the state’s 600 postcodes, registered guns now outnumber people.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge says that’s a worry.

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: The sheer number of guns in fairly ordinary metropolitan parts of Sydney really shocks people.

There are more than 3000 guns in Brookvale, 4442 registered guns in Wentworthville, and 4200-odd registered guns in Bardwell Park and Bexley.

There’s no reason to have our ordinary suburbs bristling with thousands of firearms.

MANDIE SAMI: NSW police attribute the increase in the number of licences in part to the increase of club membership for the sport of target shooting and recreational hunting.

But Mr Shoebridge says he doesn’t see a reason why there are so many guns in suburban Sydney.

He says the Greens will introduce legislation in the next few months to limit the number of firearms people can legally register.

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: When you live in metropolitan parts of the state, we need a reasonable cap on the number of guns.

Why should anyone have more than two or three, or at most five guns, if they live in the middle of metropolitan Sydney?

And that’s what politicians are refusing to grasp, that most people want a cap on the number of guns that their neighbours can own.

MANDIE SAMI: Are the Greens proposing to actually go ahead and make this a reality?

DAVID SHOEBRIDGE: We will be introducing legislation this year to put a cap on the reasonable number of guns, but we don’t pretend that that will get through Parliament, because we know that both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party are scared of the gun lobby and they are refusing to take the steps to even put some teeth in John Howard’s firearm laws.

And that’s what we need now. They were good laws when they were passed, but there is loophole after loophole being found in them and we need to be closing those loopholes.

MANDIE SAMI: While, Mr Shoebridge doesn’t yet have the support of other parties, he does have support from the president of the NSW Council of Civil Liberties, Stephen Blanks.

STEPHEN BLANKS: The Council of Civil Liberties has never been supportive of a right to bare arms, or to own as many guns as a person wishes.

You have to take into account the community interest in safety and there is a very very strong overwhelming interest in the community to be safe from gun crime, inappropriate gun use and the risk of guns being stolen and used illegally.

MANDIE SAMI: In a statement, NSW police say all firearms licence holders are subject to a range of criminal and suitability checks.

They add that each firearm acquisition has to have a permit, and a good reason is required for each and every additional weapon.

John Piper is a member of the Newcastle Lake Macquarie Clay Target Club and the Sports Shooters Association of Australia.

He owns nine guns and says any attempt to put a limit on the number of guns he can register is ridiculous.

JOHN PIPER: It’s a lack of understanding as to why you need to own more than one or two guns. You know I’m involved in two major areas of firearm usage which is hunting and clay target shooting, one gun doesn’t cut it.

MARK COLVIN: John Piper, a member of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, ending Mandie Sami’s report.

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