Australians threatened with lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines have been turning in thousands of firearms since July 1 in a “gun amnesty” program aimed at getting rid of unregistered guns, an idea so offensive to American gun owners that when Hillary Rodham Clinton mentioned Aussie gun laws on the campaign trail, it became an issue that cost her votes.
The government has given Aussie gun owners until Sept. 30 to turn in their unregistered guns. According to the BBC Friday, the take so far has been “nearly 26,000” firearms. Among them, according to a related report on ABC.net, are historic firearms that had been used in WWI and II, and the Vietnam war.
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The ABC story noted that more than 13,460 guns had been surrendered in New South Wales, with another 7,000 turned in by gun owners in Queensland. Other states have seen fewer guns, but the roundup is definitely on.
The New York Times recently reported that the amnesty “allows people to hand unwanted or unregistered firearms over to the police and to licensed firearm dealers without fear of prosecution. Ordinarily, the possession of an unregistered firearm can bring a fine of up to 280,000 Australian dollars ($220,000) or 14 years in jail.”
But is that an honest assessment? This program doesn’t “allow” anything. It essentially requires such gun surrenders under threat of fine and imprisonment. And many of the firearms being surrendered are “rubbish guns,” according to Philip Alpers, a University of Sidney associated professor quoted by the NY Times.
“I would suspect the great majority of guns that have been surrendered are long guns, which have very little value to their owners and even less value to criminals,” Alpers said.
But in an article released by the National Rifle Association, Prof. Alpers reportedly “expressed disdain” for the current gun turn-in project.
“All the research studies show that very limited, unenforced amnesties like this one produce no measurable decrease in violent crime,” Alpers observed. “You can’t prove they reduce death or injury.”
Alpers subsequently added, “They are the politician’s favorite feel-good gesture and they generate really useful media images of guns being destroyed.”
Even gun control proponents in the U.S. have acknowledged that gun “buybacks” have little or no benefit in the effort to reduce violent crime.
Years ago, following a mass shooting in the Tasmanian community of Port Arthur, Australians were forced to hand in more than 643,700 firearms. This was the kind of “gun control” idea that Clinton mentioned during one town hall. The video of her remarks went viral and was credited with stirring alarm among millions of American gun owners who turned out to put Donald Trump in the White House.
The NY Times article noted that a 2016 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.”
There is no Second Amendment protection for gun owners in Australia.