Gun amnesty provides community safety

Port Arthur and the events of April 28, 1996, will forever be etched in our memories.  It is the day our innocence was taken and as a nation, we collectively watched on in horror at the carnage one person behind a high-powered firearm could inflict on others.

Tragedies of that magnitude simply did not occur in Australia, particularly Tasmania. Or so we thought.

Then-prime minister John Howard acted quickly to introduce gun ownership laws and the first national gun amnesty.  Up until that time, Tasmania had relatively lax gun laws – it wasn’t until 1993, when the Guns Act 1991 came into effect that licensing and registration was taken more seriously.

Last year Mr Howard said that the laws he put in place following the Port Arthur tragedy should be strengthened. 

Move forward to 2016 and a new type of fear was taking hold – terrorism and concerns around national security. Look at the recent London attacks and closer to home the Lindt siege in Sydney and the Brighton siege in Melbourne – guns were involved.

The news on Friday that the federal government will host a National Gun Amnesty from July 1 for three months shows that all jurisdictions are working cooperatively to make Australia safer. The amnesty will mean that anyone with an unwanted or unregistered firearm, or firearm-related item, can legally dispose of the items at approved drop-off points - no questions asked.

It's a positive move, particularly when you consider the number of gun thefts and crimes involving shootings in recently times.

In September 2016, this masthead reported its fourth shooting in residential Launceston for the year. Previous years to that, The Examiner also reported on the number of firearms that had been stolen from numerous properties around the state.

It will be of interest to see how many firearms are surrendered in Tasmania during this three-month amnesty period. Since 1996, Tasmania Police has had many amnesties to remove unwanted weapons out of potentially the wrong hands and the uptake of this program has been positive.

It is paramount that education and licencing around firearms continues.  Laws can be tightened but don’t make it problematic for those enthusiasts who do the right thing. Those with a licence are more likely to be educated on the dangers of a gun and what it can do. That's responsible ownership. 

It is the ones that slip beneath the radar that need to be scrutinised more closely.