Gun numbers increasing in Aust: study

Gun numbers in Australia have surged since the Port Arthur massacre two decades ago, despite fewer people owning firearms.


Research by Sydney University’s Associate Professor Philip Alpers found that the one million guns destroyed after tougher laws were introduced in 1996 have been replaced by 1.026 million new ones.

Assoc Prof Alpers said while population growth accounted for some of the rise, the number of guns in shooters’ private arsenals had increased.

The number of guns imported by Australian shooters has also risen 81 per cent to 104,323 between the 2008/09 and 2014/15 financial years.

“Australia claims to have `solved the gun problem’, yet this could be a temporary illusion,” Assoc Prof Alpers said.

“The million guns destroyed after Port Arthur have been replaced with 1,026,000 new ones, and the surge only shows upward momentum.”

The guns were destroyed as a result of 41 state and federal gun amnesties held since Martin Bryant killed 35 people and injured 23 others during a shooting spree at Port Arthur.

Assoc Prof Alpers says shooters went on a buying spree involving single-shot firearms after bans were introduced on rapid-fire rifles and shotguns under tough new laws in 1996.

However, the proportion of households with a firearm had dropped 75 per cent since 1988.

Assoc Prof Alpers said the data suggested shooters who already owned several guns had bought more, rather than there being a rise in the number of individuals buying guns.

“Until recently the average Australian shooter owned three to five firearms,” he said.

“The same people now keep a larger collection, and a proportion of those guns continue to leak into the illicit market.”

Since the then-prime minister John Howard struck a national firearms agreement in 1996, several states and territories have moved to wind back gun control laws, including Tasmania, which has removed the cooling-off period for buying a second firearm.

More recently it has emerged more than 7000 Adler A110 rapid-fire shotguns have poured into the country in six months, alongside revelations some Australians have amassed huge private arsenals of firearms.