Australia has seen a rise in gun crime over the past decade despite imposing an outright ban on many firearms in the late 1990s.
Charges for crimes involving firearms have increased dramatically across the island nation's localities in the past decade according to an analysis of government statistics conducted by The New Daily. It found that gun crimes have spiked dramatically in the Australian states of Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania. In Victoria, pistol-related offenses doubled over the last decade. In New South Wales, they tripled. The other states saw smaller but still significant increases.
Experts said that the country's 1996 ban on most semi-automatic firearms has actually driven criminals to those guns. "The ban on semi-automatics created demand by criminals for other types of guns," professor Philip Alpers of the University of Sydney told The New Daily. "The criminal’s gun of choice today is the semi-automatic pistol."
Gun control advocates in the country insist that the problem is too little regulation. They said, while most modern firearms are illegal and all legal firearms owners must obtain licenses from the government, ammunition is not controlled tightly enough.
"There is very little regulation of ammunition purchase," Samantha Lee, a spokesperson for Gun Control Australia, told the publication. "In most jurisdictions you can purchase ammunition because you have a firearm licence and there is no restriction on the type you can purchase – so if you own a rifle you can still purchase ammunition for a handgun."
"Gun enthusiasts are quite right when they say guns don’t kill–it’s the bullets that kill," Professor Alpers added. "For many years we just focused on the guns and ignored the ammunition that was lying around–now people are starting to realise that ammunition control is just as important."
Law enforcement said the rising gun crime was in relation to increased efforts to crack down on guns, especially those used in the drug trade.
"In recent years police have been more proactive in their targeting of illegal weapons, particularly in relation to known or suspected criminals," New South Wales Detective Superintendent Mick Plotecki told the paper. "We often find a link between firearms offences and mid-level drug crime."
Regardless of the reasons for the jump in gun crime, the numbers reveal the true size of Australia's illegal gun market. "Taken together, the data suggests that despite our tough anti-gun laws, thousands of weapons are either being stolen or entering the country illegally," The New Daily said. "The fourfold rise in handgun-related charges in NSW in the past decade points to the existence of a big illegal market for concealable firearms that seems to have been underestimated in the past."