Welcome to the Gun ShowWhenever a terrorist or mentally ill individual (depending, of course, on their ethnic origin) commits yet another mass shooting in America, a spotlight shines on Australia. Every time America mourns and the gun control debate rears its ugly head to absolutely no effect whatsoever, memes galore refer to the land down under as the perfect example of how a government should react to and regulate gun violence.
For those of you unfamiliar with Aussie history (presumably backpackers), in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, which killed 35 people, the National Firearms Agreement was passed by all Australian state governments. This agreement put strict restrictions on the ownership of firearms nationwide. Gun owners today have to meet standard licensing and permit criteria, attend a safety course, be subject to regular inspections and follow strict rules regarding the storage of their firearm before they can own one.
In order to obtain a firearm licence, applicants need to have proof of a genuine reason for owning a firearm. And in case you were wondering, ‘self-defence’ is not considered a good enough reason. Amen to that.
So as far as social media is concerned, Australia is the Beyoncé of gun control. We can do no wrong. But beyond the hair extensions and glitter – or the far less glamorous legislation, politics and PR – what is the real situation with firearms in Australia?
Despite the strict laws and apparent national distaste for guns, you might be surprised to know how many registered firearms are in your local area. According to toomanyguns.org, there were 810,023 registered firearms in NSW as of March last year, with over 100 postcodes home to more than 2,000 registered firearms and six postcodes with in excess of 10,000.
In Bondi Beach, North Bondi and Tamarama there were 97 registered gun owners as of March 2017. In Bondi Junctionand Queens Park there were 43 registered firearm owners, and in Bronte and Waverley there were 41. There were 138 registered in the Randwick and Clovelly areas, and 102 in Coogee and South Coogee. Bellevue Hill had 54 whilst Maroubra had 248.
That’s a total of 723 registered gun owners in the very same area that The Beast is distributed in monthly. The number of individual guns registered in this area is an astounding 3,182, making it an average of 4.4 guns owned by each registered owner. Meanwhile, Maroubra, an area known for its gang culture, had a whopping 1,152 registered guns according to the website.
So how strict can our gun laws really be? And how easy is it to actually obtain a firearm licence? Given that the majority of the list of ‘genuine reasons’ cited mostly consist of rural activities such as animal welfare, pest control and primary production, it’s hard to imagine why so many guns could be present in an urban area like the Eastern Suburbs.
Of course many of these gun owners could belong to target shooting clubs, recreational hunting clubs or firearms collectors societies, which are also considered genuine reasons. But again, could this reasonably and genuinely account for the 3,000-plus guns registered to the area or are the permit applications easier to fudge than we might think?
Yes, we are light-years ahead of the United States (I mean, who isn’t these days?) in terms of our gun control, but is there more that can be done? Do these laws need to be tightened further?
Global news and social media would have us believe that gun violence is virtually non-existent in Australia. But after seven people, including four children, died at the hand of legally registered firearms in Margaret River just a few months ago and two teenagers were shot dead in Pennant Hills last month, can we really keep pretending that everything is hunky dory or is it time to revisit our gun laws?