May 22, 2018

First Aust gun amnesty since Port Arthur

17 June 2017, 07:30 | Cesar Cruz

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Amnesty Justice Minister Michael Keenan

Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said that from July 1, locals can hand-in illegal firearms to authorities without prosecution.

"This is as much about giving a family a chance to get rid of an old heirloom as it is about getting rid of guns off our streets", read the statement.

The Queensland Police Union believes a national gun amnesty is a step in the right direction, but President Ian Leavers says he'd be "shocked" if hardened criminals and organised crime syndicates turned up to drop off their weapons.

"The objective is to reduce the number of unregistered and illicit firearms in the community", Keenan said, as cited by AAP.

"What we want to do is reduce the number of guns like that in the community", Keenan said.

In an earlier statement, he said "We are living in a time when our national security environment has deteriorated".

Mr Keenan said the amnesty would allow people to hand in guns with no questions asked. The Port Arthur massacre led state governments to legislate tough restrictions on rapid-fire weapons and to buy back nearly 700,000 newly outlawed guns.

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Australia's has some of the world's toughest gun control laws, introduced after the country's worst mass murder, when a gunman killed 35 people at Port Arthur in the island state of Tasmania in 1996.

The Courier Mail reported, however, that there's an estimated 260,000 illegal firearms now circulating in Australia, with the "darknet" and efficient global freight systems making it increasingly easy for Australians to buy guns in the USA and import them into Australia.

It's Australia's first gun amnesty in 21 years - and the last one led to a sea change in Australia's relationship with firearms.

All semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns are banned, and there are strict regulations on licensing and ownership.

According to a 2016 report by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, there were 2.89 million legally registered firearms in the country in the hands of 816,000 license holders.

"I'd be shocked if they handed those firearms in".

Following the amnesty, then prime minister John Howard enacted tough gun ownership laws, which now includes fines for unregistered firearms of up to 280,000 dollars (210,000 United States dollars) or up to 14 years in jail.

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