Shocking facts! (This is your cue to shock.)
Accompanying this shocking fact are slabs from Gun Control Australia that offers readers the valuable privilege of thinking the GCA way:
“Gun theft is a major issue, yet the government keeps telling us that illegal importing of firearms in the problem. The problem is right in front of us, in fact possibly right next door to us.”
Not every anti-shooter article is unbridled hysteria. Sometimes they just involve a very selective presentation of limited facts. And the fact that apparently Gun Control Australia can get Freedom of Information requests approved (still waiting for their actual proof of these) but pro firearm organisations have them routinely denied.
The article obliges this by publishing State-by-State graphs of firearm thefts with an acknowledged source of GCA. Law-abiding firearm owners (LAFOs) are the problem: ‘right next door to us’. GCA’s thesis is that shooters are the problem.
This strategy isn’t anti-gun or anti-violence. It’s anti-shooter. Let’s call it the anti-shooter strategy, or A.S.S. (aptly named). The A.S.S. wants people to embrace a chain of ideas at an emotional level”
- Violent crimes are committed,
- Many of these crimes involve firearms,
- Most of the firearms in these crimes are stolen from licensed shooters.
It doesn’t matter whether any of these things are trending up or down or are true. They just need voters and politicians to swallow these ideas on an emotional level so that politicians do what the ALAFO says.
The ‘low ground’ of being anti-LAFO
Right-thinking people agree that we should reduce violent crime and stop criminals accessing firearms. If we care about achieving this then, before anything else, we should we weigh-up available data and work on a policy to cut crime. Simply attacking licensed shooters is a pitiable, weak-minded strategy. It doesn’t do anything to cut crime.
The facts about violent crime
On violent crime and how it is committed: firearms are rare. Little has changed since 2005 when the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics summarised:
“[W]hen we consider firearm incidents as a proportion of all incidents recorded, firearms are rarely used. Instead, our analysis suggests that robberies and assaults are far more likely to involve a knife, with over three times as many robberies and over nine times as many assaults involving a knife. A higher proportion of murders and attempted murders are committed with a firearm, with 20 per cent and 46 per cent of these incident types involving firearms, respectively. However, homicide offences are rare.”
What do we know about crooks and firearms?
They like pistols. In 2012, a single illegal importation of 220 Glock pistols reportedly came through a local post office (“Customs must tackle ‘failings’ on firearms”, The Australian, 14 May 2012). Such importations were described in 2012 by the NSW Police Commissioner as a ‘National Security Threat’. We are kidding ourselves if we pretend that this is just a one-off and that there are not regular, large-scale attempts to import pistols into Australia for black market sale.
Besides what’s imported, there could easily be a quarter of a million pistols and longarms unregistered and in circulation from before the 1996 buyback.
The Australian Institute of Criminology has indicated that up to half of all pistols seized by Police were stolen. We should take a moment to consider the contributing factors to this:
- When a licensed firearm owner is the victim of theft, they report it to Police. Police investigate the theft and seize any firearms if they’re successful in finding the thief.
- When a firearm is illegally imported or is sold on the black market, no one reports it. Police don’t know about it (or seize it) until it turns up through some other crime.
We should expect the number of stolen pistols seized by Police to be higher than the number of other pistols. It doesn’t mean thefts are a larger source of firearms, it just means they are reported and investigated (rather than quietly disappearing into the black market). The Queensland data below reflects a good rate of theft recovery by Queensland Police Service.
What do we know about thefts generally?
Five years of very detailed data about Queensland firearm thefts gives some useful insights. I count about 1,250 firearms stolen during the 2014 and 2015 calendar years. This is broadly consistent with the graphs published by the Sydney Morning Herald, but their presentation lacks some key facts. In Queensland, we had:
- 331 of the 1,250 firearms were recovered.
- 101 of the firearms stolen were air rifles and 260 were rimfire rifles.
- Only 44 pistols (including 2 air pistols) remained unrecovered.
If we apply Queensland’s percentages to the 6,451 firearms stolen nationally, as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald article, we would expect:
- 1,708 of the 6,451 stolen firearms were recovered.
- 521 air rifles and 1,341 rimfire rifles stolen.
- 227 pistols (including 10 air pistols) remaining unrecovered.
This last point would lead you to conclude that about as many pistols enter the black market every two years from licensed shooters as enter Australia from a single post office importation attempt (which, you will recall, was 220 Glocks).
In terms of the numbers of firearms being used in violent crime, it seems pretty hard to conclude that thefts from licensed owners are the major issue.
Law abiding firearms owners accept that we have important responsibility to take reasonable steps to secure firearms. What we don’t accept is anti-LAFO policy that has no intention of making policy that’s designed to reduce violent crime.
Written by A. Stanway