Data woes delay national firearms network – SSAA’s predictions become reality

A firearms intelligence-sharing platform is still not being utilised by law enforcement due to flawed data and limited policing resources to rectify the issues. Recent Senate Estimate hearings have revealed what the SSAA has long warned: that the Australian Firearms Information Network (AFIN) won’t assist in stopping gun crime due to junk data.

At a cost to taxpayers of $5 million across three years, the AFIN details the life of both registered firearms and known illicit firearms, from cradle to the grave. The network was meant to be readily accessible for law enforcement by 2015, with firearm registry audits listed as a high priority for police following the preliminary Sydney Siege review. But the hearings have revealed that, although functioning, data issues have deterred authorities from fully utilising the service.

Western Australian Labor Senator Louise Pratt quizzed representatives of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) on the status of the database, with Acting CEO Nicole Rose revealing that data issues have made the system unusable. “It is ready to be used by jurisdictions. Not all jurisdictions are using it,” she said. “There are some issues that we have with data quality. We are working with states and territories to upload that data so they will actually start using it.”

The hearings also revealed that under-resourced police do not have the time to go through years of outdated data, creating further delays. “We are hopeful that it is going to take only the next 12 to 24 months, but it is not something we can do; it is something states and territories have to do, and it is resource intensive for each police jurisdiction to go back and look at historical data before they put it in,” Ms Rose explained.

A national firearms registry has been promoted many times by governments in the false hope that it will stop gun crime. The SSAA has continued to point to the Canadian experience, where the costly longarm registry was abolished due to no evidence that it aided public safety. Our New Zealand neighbours have also avoided establishing firearm registries due to no cost-benefits.

SSAA National CEO Tim Bannister said a national firearms database listing legally owned firearms will do little to address the illicit market. “The SSAA has long warned the government and authorities about issues with reliable firearms data, so it comes as no surprise that this expensive database is still not up and running,” he said. “We implore the government to invest in areas that will address the illicit firearms market, instead of wasting money policing the law-abiding firearm owners.”

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