Over 6,000 guns given up in Aussie state

Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Hoffman of the New South Wales Police speaking to reporters yesterday with guns seized from criminals displayed behind him.
Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Hoffman of the New South Wales Police speaking to reporters yesterday with guns seized from criminals displayed behind him.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Weapons surrendered in New South Wales part of national amnesty that runs till end-Sept

SYDNEY • More than 6,000 guns have been surrendered in Australia's most populous state in just one month, police said yesterday, after fears of terrorism and an influx of illegal firearms sparked a national amnesty.

The government had said in June it believed there were as many as 260,000 illicit weapons on the streets, and with the threat of extremist attacks and a spate of gangland shootings, it wanted to minimise the danger.

In total, some 1,700 rifles, 460 shotguns and nearly 200 handguns were surrendered to New South Wales police and dealers, while thousands of others were handed in for registration.

"We've also received more than 110 prohibited weapons, including samurai swords, knives and other edged weapons," Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Hoffman said.

No official figures have been announced yet for other states and territories. The amnesty, which began on July 1 and ends on Sept 30, allows people to hand in unregistered or unwanted firearms with no questions asked. Outside that period, people face fines of up to A$280,000 (S$302,000) or 14 years' jail.

Gun control measures continue to have strong public support in Australia.

The national firearms amnesty is the first since the 1996 Port Arthur mass shooting that claimed 35 lives. More than 600,000 weapons were destroyed in the aftermath of that attack, during a gun buy-back in which compensation was offered.

Then-Prime Minister John Howard also enacted tougher gun laws, including bans on certain weapons such as rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, a minimum ownership age and licences.

All guns in Australia must be registered, but many arrive illegally from overseas through organised syndicates.

Australian officials have grown increasingly concerned over the threat of extremist attacks and have prevented 13 on home soil since September 2014.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2017, with the headline 'Over 6,000 guns given up in Aussie state'. Print Edition | Subscribe