Private arsenals revealed in data

Shoalhaven Local Area Command Chief Inspector Steve Johnson with some of the guns surrendered locally during the gun amnesty.
Shoalhaven Local Area Command Chief Inspector Steve Johnson with some of the guns surrendered locally during the gun amnesty.

One individual registered gun owner in the Shoalhaven has a private collection of 102 firearms and front line police are powerless to stop them.

New data obtained by the Greens shows there more than 20,000 registered guns in the Shoalhaven, which is home to 101,777 people.

The largest collection in the local government area is owned by someone living in the 2541 postcode, coming in at the 41st highest arsenal in the state, according to the data released this week. 

Meanwhile, an individual gun owner in the 2450 postcode keeps 83 registered firearms. In the 2539 postcode, one registered gun owner has 70 guns and in the 2538 postcode, one person owns 21 firearms. 

Greens MP and gun control spokesman David Shoebridge told the Milton Ulladulla Times on Friday, October 13, the high numbers were the result of a “legislative loophole”. 

“The law requires someone to have a genuine reason to get a licence and they need a good reason to acquire each and every gun,” he said. 

“They are required to fill in a permit for each gun, which then needs police approvals. 

“The police allow gun owners to endlessly recycle their allegedly good reason to get their first gun, then their second gun, then to get their 50th, and, in the case of Nowra, to have their 100th gun. 

“What may be a good reason to get your first gun, we don’t think is a good reason to get your 50th or 100th one of those. That is what the police need to be enforcing.”

The figures show someone living in the 2353 postcode, at Moonbi, near Tamworth, has an arsenal of 312 guns. In the 2036 postcode of Little Bay, suburban Sydney, an individual gun owner keeps 305 registered firearms and in Newcastle, postcode 2285, someone has 310 registered guns. 

Mr Shoebridge said under the current law, police could stop allowing people to hold a large arsenal. He said the Greens were calling for stronger laws so anyone wanting to own more than five firearms would have to provide additional security and justification. 

“Police could enforce it under the current law,” he said. 

“Given the strength of the gun lobby, and given the pushback the police would face, we think there are good arguments for tightening the law to require someone who already has five guns to have a special reasoning as to why they need more. 

“We believe five guns is an appropriate and reasonable threshold for additional scrutiny.

“The law should be changed immediately and these individuals should have to properly justify their need for that many guns. If they can’t justify it, they should be forced to surrender the weapons. 

“I can’t see how someone can make out a valid case that they need 310 guns in suburban Newcastle.”

Some of the 200 firearms handed into Shoalhaven police.

Some of the 200 firearms handed into Shoalhaven police.

The Greens took NSW Police to court to obtain the data, which does not include firearms held by arms dealers or by collectors, who require a different category of licence, and often have their firearms rendered inoperable.

Unlimited licences were creating “honeypots” of weapons that could fall into the wrong hands, Mr Shoebridge said. 

“There are obviously community safety concerns about an individual having so many guns at their disposal,” he said. 

“If a criminal gains access to one of these arm cashes, then there are hundreds of weapons that can be used in criminal activities or sold on the black market and used to finance criminal activities. 

“Our law should be strong enough to prohibit this.”

The Greens expect the state’s gun registrations, currently at 900,000, to reach more than one million within the next two years, under the current legislation.  

Greens MP and gun control spokesman David Shoebridge.

Greens MP and gun control spokesman David Shoebridge.