Australian amnesty nets 12,500 guns

SYDNEY — The first numbers for Australia’s National Gun Amnesty are in, and more than 12,500 unregistered firearms have been surrendered since it started last month, Michael Keenan, the minister for justice, announced Thursday.

The amnesty, which is running from July 1 until Sept. 30, allows people to hand unwanted or unregistered firearms over to the police and to licensed firearm dealers without fear of prosecution. Ordinarily, possession of an unregistered firearm can bring a fine of up to $220,000 or 14 years in jail.

Philip Alpers, an associate professor at the University of Sydney and gun policy specialist, said potential criminals might not be the ones handing in their guns. While he called the amnesty “a real success,” he described many of the weapons being handed in as “rubbish guns.”

“I would suspect the great majority of guns that have been surrendered are long guns,” he said, “which have very little value to their owners and even less value to criminals.”

Long guns, such as rifles, which are typically used by farmers, are less valuable on the illicit market than handguns.

“Those are the highly desired guns, the guns criminals will pay thousands of dollars to buy. They’re the criminals’ choices because they’re so concealable,” Alpers said.

In 2016, a report from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission found that more than 250,000 long guns and 10,000 handguns were in the illicit firearm market.

The largest hand-in so far has come from New South Wales, with 6,400 firearms surrendered.

“We’ve also received more than 110 prohibited weapons, including samurai swords, knives and other edged weapons,” said Wayne Hoffman, a detective chief inspector with the New South Wales Police.

In a news conference Friday, Paul Millett, a superintendent in the Victoria Police, confirmed that of the 751 firearms handed in, a majority were long guns.

“A lot of them have come from deceased estates or people who have had a change in life and may have moved from a country property into a metropolitan area, and therefore they’ve handed their firearms in,” Millett said. “Our position on this is that one firearm off the street is a win for the Victorian community.”

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