Australian shooters restock private arsenal to pre-Port Arthur numbers

14 January 2013

New research from the University of Sydney shows that Australians destroyed more than a million guns in response to shooting massacres but imports have restored the stockpile to the level it was at before the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

"Since 1988, when the first of several mass shootings took place, 38 state and federal gun amnesties ran for well over 3000 weeks," said Adjunct Associate Professor Philip Alpers, from the University's School of Public Health.

"If we include all the gun owners who sent their weapons to the smelter without asking for money, the real total is a million firearms destroyed, or a third of the national private arsenal. That's many more than we usually talk about."

"By mid-2012, following a steady 10-year upward trend in gun buying, Australians had restocked the national stockpile of private guns to pre-Port Arthur levels. They did this by importing 1,055,082 firearms, an average of 43,961 each year since destruction programs began."

(This total excludes 52,608 handguns imported for law enforcement and other official use, along with firearms for the military, airguns, muzzle-loaders and the customs import category 'Other'.)

Adjunct Associate Professor Philip Alpers is in Baltimore, Maryland to relate the Australian experience at the Summit on Reducing Gun Violence in America.

Organised by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and its patron, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the two-day summit will hear invited experts from the United States, Great Britain, Australia and Brazil.

At its conclusion on Tuesday, the Summit's recommendations will feed into US Vice President Joe Biden's gun control task force which reports to the White House at the end of this month.

"In its scope and size, Australia's public health effort to reduce the risk of gun violence led the world," says Alpers.

"After melting down a million guns, the risk of an Australian dying by gunshot fell by more than half - plus, we've seen no mass shootings in 16 years. Only time will tell what effect this resurgence of firearm availability might have on the public health and safety of Australians."

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