Senator Hanson—Australians have always had reasonable access to firearms, and law-abiding citizens have always had an understandable expectation that individual ownership would continue, as indeed would the facility for them to pursue their sporting pastime. This reasonable expectation has lost ground daily. Australian firearm owners quite rightly believe the day is coming when the civilian population will be disarmed and only those who break the law will possess firearms.
The uniform gun laws were ill-conceived and rushed through without thought or consultation. Any proposed need has no basis in fact and is an affront to anyone who is even slightly informed of the facts and figures. Dr Adam Graycar, from the Australian Institute of Criminology, has stated that banning semiautomatic firearms will do nothing to prevent the majority of Australian gun deaths.
While I would certainly not advocate illegitimate ownership of such firearms, we cannot escape the fact that even just in the case of centre fire semiautomatic rifles, the majority of which are military style, there are in excess of a million such firearms in Australia, yet this style accounts for less than two per cent of Australian firearm deaths.
Despite the free access to millions of firearms in Australia, the available data shows the number of murders committed with firearms since 1979 has been in a steady downward trend, despite the rise in murders generally over the same period. It should also be acknowledged that this period of general decline covered the peak years of importation for the so-called military-style semiautomatic firearms. In fact, this period shows that an average of 92 murders, or 20 to 30 per cent of the total murders committed each year, were carried out with firearms. Many more people are murdered by other means.
Since 1990, there has been a rapid increase in murders committed with sharp instruments. These alone far outnumber murders with firearms for the same period—again, despite the vast availability of firearms. Even when looking at suicides, where there is an alarming increase in incidence, you will find a steady downward trend in the use of firearms. Available information shows that since 1979 suicides have increased nearly 45 per cent but use of a firearm to commit suicide has gone down by over 25 per cent. Since 1970, suicide with a firearm has dropped from nearly 30 per cent of all suicides to about 17 per cent.
Removing completely inoperable guns from our war museums and paying compensation in excessive amounts is probably one of the more foolish examples of this government’s agenda. The act of removing rusty, non-working machine guns from museums is contributing to erasing our history and will not save a single life. A person in Darwin was paid nearly $½ a million for 20-millimetre cannons from fighter planes. Considering that the current removal of firearms from private ownership was largely targeted at centre-fire semi-automatics, and less than two percent, or 10 firearm-related deaths a year are attributable to this style of firearm, is the $500 million buyback coupled with the unaccountable costs justifiable in the context of the variety of weapons used to commit murder, and the many causes of accidental deaths?
Perhaps as many as 50,000 Australians die each year from the effects of diseases caused by alcohol and tobacco. What impact would the $500 million have had in reducing these horrendous figures? Each year, countless thousands die in road accidents and in all manner of other activities, yet are we to believe that these and the deaths from alcohol and tobacco are somehow more acceptable because so many people drink and smoke and drive? There are millions of firearms and firearms owners, but despite the vast numbers and the amount of use, in context, the number of deaths is relatively low, and the government’s approach cannot be justified.
Bear in mind that removing firearms from law-abiding citizens will most likely impact only upon accidents, and in this case, there are only about 15 fatalities each year. One thousand people die each year from accidental falls, and 250 drown. There was no gun debate, as such. There was no consultation or concern for the facts, merely misinformation shoved down the throats of an understandably emotional public.
This has been a political exercise, pure and simple, with no reduction in a number of firearms in society. In fact, quite the contrary has occurred, as the figures show. For every firearm turned in, approximately 1.7 modern firearms have been purchased with the compensation. There is also the issue of the number of firearms that have literally gone underground.
The returns do not begin to count for the estimated number of firearms. In particular, hundreds of thousands of military-style semi-automatics would seem to be missing. It is the time we acknowledge that crime is caused by economic desperation and helplessness, unemployment, loss of hope, family breakdown, substance abuse, and cultural conflicts—not by firearms ownership.
The Swiss experience is, perhaps, the best example. In Switzerland, there are more firearms and fewer deaths than in Australia. The majority of firearms in that country are military weapons—millions of them. It is only when we, as one nation, address these issues together that crime will reduce. Violence and crime are not proportional to the availability of firearms; they are directly linked to the security and decency of our society. Governments that pretend otherwise are looking to hide the true causes of the situation and escape the responsibility for addressing the real issues and, therefore, they perpetuate a lie on their people.
Saving lives, or reducing crime, was obviously not behind the government’s attacks on the private ownership of firearms. Indeed, they are guilty of the crime of using an emotional period for political purposes. Have no doubt, the buyback has failed. There are now more firearms out there than before, and many are modern and potentially more deadly than the firearms they replaced. It seems that most Australians have not handed in their firearms, and be assured, absolutely no criminals have complied.
What does the government intend to do with the millions of Australians who have not complied? Will Australia become a police state with homes systematically raided and property confiscated? Will the government harass, fine and jail otherwise innocent law-abiding Australians? History has shown that only the worst kind of government disarms its people. I stand by my belief that Australians have the right to defend themselves and their families in their own homes. Shooting is a legitimate sport and pastime, and participants should be treated accordingly. Disarming law-abiding Australians is not in the national interest and will do nothing to reduce crime. An honest government would take heed, so we can be sure this one is not listening.
Simply put, it should be remembered that, during the last election campaign, the current government used the slogan: `enough is enough’. Be assured that the firearm owners of Australia are tired of unwarranted and unjustified interference. They are tired of being used as political scapegoats and of being the victims of United Nations treaties. You can be assured that Australia’s firearm owners have adopted the Liberal-National coalition slogan because that is exactly how they feel, that enough is enough. Always remember, outlaw firearms and only outlaws will have them.
Source The Senate Files Unedited Parliament of Australia, Original Transcript for our accountability is NATIONAL FIREARMS PROGRAM IMPLEMENTATION BILL 1997