Vision: Safe communities living without fear of gun violence
Objective: To improve community safety through effective gun control within a public health framework, including by:
- promoting effective gun laws and policies
- raising public awareness of gun-related issues
- developing informed policy positions
- advocating for transparent and accountable government decision-making
- promoting the elimination of gun violence in the home, and
- advising political and bureaucratic decision-makers.
We stand for:
1. Restricting dangerous firearms
- Update the National Firearms Agreement – The landmark National Firearms Agreement, agreed by all states and territories after the Port Arthur Massacre, has not been properly updated to reflect changes in weapons technologies for over two decades. As a result, firearms that have the capacity to cause significant harm in a short period of time, such as rapid-fire lever action shotguns and hybrid handguns, are widely available to gun licence holders.
- Enact consistent national gun laws – Our firearms laws are only as strong as the laws of the weakest state. Standards set by the National Firearms Agreement have not been implemented consistently. By way of example, New South Wales permits the use of silencers in some circumstances, Queensland has less stringent proof of identity procedures for licences, Tasmania does not comply with pistol regulations introduced in 2002 after the Monash University shooting, and some states allow unlicensed shooting. Inconsistencies between states set a concerning precedent, and provide a justification for other states to also weaken laws.
- Ban silencers – Recreational hunters and sporting shooters in New South Wales can now access silencers in certain circumstances. Silencers pose a significant public safety risk, especially when stolen or used for recreational shooting, and should be available only to professionals, such as veterinarians, in strictly limited circumstances.
2. Responsible gun ownership
- Tighten recreational shooting licences – Recreational hunting is the most common reason cited in support of firearms licence applications. This has led to the unnecessary build-up of guns in urban homes where they can be stolen, used, or threatened to be used. We believe the definition of recreational hunting needs to be tightened, and more stringent criteria applied to prevent the further unnecessary proliferation of guns. The ‘genuine reason’ to own a gun should also be established separately for each new firearm. We consider that shooting animals for pleasure alone should not be an acceptable reason to own a gun.
- Limit how many firearms a person can own – As there are no restrictions on the number of firearms a licence-holder can own, some gun owners have amassed hundreds of weapons. Arsenals compromise the protection offered by Australia’s gun laws, and pose a threat to public safety if any of the guns are stolen. Aside from dealers and collectors, we believe the number of firearms a licence-holder can own should be restricted to a fixed number, with a specified discretionary increase available in certain circumstances where it is warranted.
- Audit gun club compliance – Gun clubs exercise significant discretion, yet often only rely on volunteer members to implement and monitor compliance with laws and regulations. This increases the risk of accidental and deliberate non-compliance. Given the public safety imperative, we consider that compliance requirements should be closely monitored and audited.
- Audit firearms storage – Firearms theft is a real and growing problem in Australia. Data from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Firearm theft in Australia 2018 report revealed that the number of firearm theft incidents and stolen firearms had increased compared to data from a decade earlier – with a 15 percent increase in reported theft incidents and a 35 percent increase in stolen firearms. Storage requirements should be upgraded, monitored and enforced, and firearms-owners should be provided with research-based guidance about how to reduce the risk of theft.
3. Safe communities
- Stop guns being used in family violence – A firearm does not even need to leave its place of safe storage in order to be used as a form of threat in situations involving family violence. We advocate for effective and automatic feedback mechanisms between the legal system, police, and gun registries in order to ensure all parties are fully aware of all matters relevant to a person’s suitability to be granted or hold a licence. Certain events or circumstances should trigger the automatic suspension of new licence applications, and the review of existing gun licences. In order to prevent gun club ‘shopping’, gun clubs should be required to notify firearms registries when an application for membership is rejected.
- Stop unlicensed shooting – Several states allow casual shooting by members of the public who are unlicensed. The licensing process is necessary to vet individuals and ensure a rigorous background check for those people using guns.
- Remove guns from schools – Live firearms on school grounds pose a risk to student safety. Firearms should not be allowed on school grounds. Schools that wish to offer target shooting as a sport should do so at existing firing ranges within the community.
- Prohibit shooting while using alcohol – While it is an offence to use a gun while under the influence of alcohol, there is some ambiguity about what this means in practice. We consider the limit should be defined as a blood alcohol level of zero.
- Regulate replica and imitation firearms – Replica and imitation firearms should be subject to the same requirements for licensing as operable firearms. This is because they can be used to inflict the same level of fear and mental harm as an operable firearm (loaded or unloaded). Toy firearms that are obviously toys and could not be confused with a real firearm need not be regulated in this manner.
- Ban the 3D printing of weapons – The possession of a digital image that can be used to print firearms should be banned, as has occurred in NSW.
- Inform people when hunting takes place – At present, recreational users of land may not be aware they are entering an area where hunting activities are permitted, posing the risk of accidental harm. Authorities and/or land managers should clearly mark areas where recreational hunting is permitted, including through the use of signage.
4. National research and monitoring
- Create a national firearms registry – While the creation of a national registry formed part of the original National Firearms Agreement in 1996, states and territories currently maintain their own registries and a national registry does not exist. A national registry would support policing activities, help trace stolen firearms across state borders, and ensure that people who have been banned from holding a firearms licence are managed consistently across all jurisdictions. It would also provide useful information for criminal intelligence agencies, and facilitate national reporting, as elaborated below.
Improve firearms data and research – There is no consistent national approach to the monitoring and publication of firearms data. Monitoring should include the annual publication of national data and policy analysis relating to:
- the number of firearms licences and registered firearms, including licence category, firearm type and jurisdiction, and
- firearms-related incidents, including suicides, murders, thefts and the use of firearms in situations involving family violence.
5. Monitoring gun lobby influence
- Regulate gun clubs – Australia’s gun clubs enjoy a significant revenue stream by virtue of a quirk in Australia’s gun laws. Under the National Firearms Agreement, licence applicants can cite their membership of a gun club to establish that they have a ‘genuine reason’ for owning a gun. This has allowed gun clubs to amass a wealth of assets and resources which can be deployed for a variety of reasons, including political lobbying. As with other entities enjoying a mandated revenue stream – such as companies offering statutory insurance coverage – gun clubs and peak bodies should be subject to significant regulatory oversight, transparency measures and reciprocal obligations.
- Ban gun industry political donations – All parliaments must immediately legislate to outlaw political donations from the gun industry where constitutionally possible. All political parties and candidates must immediately and publicly reject donations from the gun industry in all circumstances. The gun lobby has donated over $1.7 million to Australian political parties over the past decade, making it a powerful advocate in backroom deals designed to weaken Australia’s gun laws. The Australia Institute calculates that, relative to population, the Australian gun industry has spent as much on political donations and election campaigns in Australia as the National Rifle Association has in the United States.