Is there any valid reason to own an arsenal?

When Las Vegas police entered the room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort on October 1, they found 23 guns. When they searched the home of Stephen Paddock in nearby Mesquite, they found 19 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

In all, the shooter, who took 58 lives after opening fire on a music festival, had 60 less guns than one registered Shoalhaven gun owner who, it has been revealed, has 102 firearms.

The questions many people are asking is, why does anyone need so many firearms? We accept that in a rural setting, guns can be a necessary tool for pest eradication and the humane despatch of injured or sick livestock. We understand the need for a small variety of firearms.

However, we find it hard to see the logical reason for amassing private arsenals.

While the owners hopefully harbour no murderous intent – and so far there was no prior indication the Las Vegas man would go on his rampage – there is always a risk of the guns falling into the wrong hands. And there is a risk of an owner going off the rails and committing a dreadful crime.

The more guns at their disposal, the greater the likelihood of more casualties.

Australia’s gun laws are often upheld as the way to go for America, where the number of victims of gun violence has surpassed the number of casualties in all wars in which the US has been involved. 

Our watershed moment came in 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre. Newly elected prime minister John Howard took on our own vocal gun lobby to overhaul and strengthen the rules governing what weapons could be kept and who could keep them. Touch wood, we have not had a mass shooting since.

We ought to be proud of our gun laws – and we ought to protect them from being watered down.

The Greens’ suggest there should be a threshold for amassing firearms, that once an owner has five guns, police should ask for justification for any more.

They point to suburban Newcastle, where one owner is the registered owner of 310 firearms. What possible justification, they ask, is there for an individual to own such a weapons cache?

Unlike the US, there is no constitutional right to bear arms in this country. Nor should there be an automatic right to amass a private arsenal.