Amnesty data ‘stunt’ perpetuates negative connotations

A media stunt where Australia’s Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus crushed a number of surrendered firearms was used to mark the release of the second year of the Permanent National Firearms Amnesty data. While this sensationalist approach achieved the desired effect using some attention-grabbing footage harking back to the 1996 firearms amnesty, it did gloss over a few key points of interest.

The first being that some states and territories were able to discover whether the firearm handed in had been logged as stolen or missing. Across an area that would arguably capture a large percentage of the legal firearm owners in Australia, being Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, just two firearms surrendered were traced as being stolen and 17 as missing (see Table 3 below).

This is an interesting point to note if you consider the people most likely to participate in a Permanent National Firearms Amnesty – where firearms can be handed in ‘no questions asked’ – would be the law-abiding. These people would likely be handing in firearms they no longer want or need or items discovered when someone passes away, known as ‘grey market’ firearms.

The real problem with guns in the community stems from the criminal element and black market items which can be sourced via theft, smuggling and illicit manufacturing. These firearms will likely never see the light of day, particularly via an organised amnesty, unless captured by authorities as part of their action on illegal activities.

The Attorney-General’s comments on the release of the amnesty report illustrates the blurring of these factors to suit a narrative we often find attributed to firearms and ownership. “We know there are still many illegal weapons in the community,” he said. “Every illegal weapon represents a threat of more violence, more deaths and more tragedy. We know every illegal or unregistered weapon surrendered makes our community safer.”

While we at the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA Inc) do not dispute the usefulness of an amnesty, in fact we’ve promoted the program to state and territory members on numerous occasions, we do dispute the inference that any legal firearm is also a threat to the community.

Attorney-General Dreyfus concluded by saying: “I’d like to thank all those who surrendered these weapons. You’ve done the right thing to keep the community safe. And for those still in possession of an unregistered or unwanted firearm, I encourage you to surrender it to help protect your family and your community.”

This alone justifies our ongoing need for every individual firearms user to reiterate our narrative in the community at grassroots level. Only by this approach can we reach someone not associated with firearms, who’d be influenced by footage of a gun being crushed and this type of messaging. The distinction between illicit firearms and criminal activities and what law-abiding firearm owners do with legal firearms is often blurred to generate a headline.

The 2022-23 report outlined around a quarter of the 12,190 firearms handed in during the second year of the Permanent National Firearms Registry (Table 1) were subsequently registered by a licensed firearm owner (Table 2). This is in comparison to around 17,500 being handed in during the amnesty’s first year of operation and around one-third of firearms being subsequently registered to a licensed owner.

The National Firearms Amnesty continues in all states and territories, allowing anyone to hand in an unregistered or unwanted firearm, part or any weapon without penalty. People are able to hand in items at police stations or via licensed gun dealers. If a firearm is handed in for the amnesty, licence holders can apply to register it for future use. More at

Table 1: Total number of articles by category

The amnesty allows for the surrender of firearms, weapons, firearm parts and accessories. This is the number of items handed in under each category.

Jurisdiction Firearms and Weapons Firearms Parts and Accessories Total
Australian Capital Territory 81 20 101
New South Wales 3,413 309 3,722
Northern Territory 65 1 66
Queensland 1,264 4 1,268
South Australia* 622 11 633
Tasmania** 1,827 215 2,042
Victoria*** 2,665 Not Available 2,665
Western Australia 2,253 77 2,330
Total 12,190 637 12,827

*SA figures on firearms parts and accessories have been taken from a property report for surrendered firearm accessories and are not limited to the amnesty.

**Due to a processing and storage issue, some firearms surrendered in Tasmania during FY2021-2022 were recorded in FY2022-2023.

*** Data not collected.

Table 2: Total number of firearms by final status

States and territories allowed items to be handed in for registration, sale or destruction. This details the final status of firearms handed in under each category.

Jurisdiction Registration Sale Destruction
Australian Capital Territory* 10 0 91
New South Wales 1,674 579 1,226
Northern Territory^ 31 Not Available 33
Queensland 557 321 323
South Australia*^ 102 0 Not Available
Tasmania 0 0 1,827
Victoria^ Not Available Not Available 1,047
Western Australia 0 0 2,330
Total 2,374 900 6,877

*ACT and SA did not permit disposal to occur by sale. Participating dealers in SA may apply for items to be transferred to dealer stock for future sale.

^Data not collected.

Table 3: Total number of firearms by stolen and missing items

Several states and territories performed standard checks on firearms after they were anonymously surrendered, to determine whether those firearms had previously been reported as stolen or missing.
This details the number of firearms handed in under each category.

Jurisdiction Stolen Firearm Missing Firearm Total
Australian Capital Territory* 0 8 8
New South Wales 1 0 1
Northern Territory** Not Available Not Available Not Available
Queensland 1 3 4
South Australia 0 6 6
Tasmania** Not Available Not Available Not Available
Victoria** Not Available Not Available Not Available
Western Australia** Not Available Not Available Not Available
Total 2 17 19

*ACT ‘missing firearm’ figures include firearms identified as ‘lost, destroyed, wanted or permanently inoperable’.

**Data not collected.

Mark Dreyfus: “Still many illegal weapons in the community”.

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