Outdated illegal firearms estimate reduced

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) has adjusted the estimated number of illegal long-arms in circulation in Australia, but has left the estimated number of illegal handguns in circulation unchanged.

The ACIC statement said:

“Due to its clandestine nature, the size of the illicit firearm market cannot be definitively measured. However, based on available data, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) conservatively estimates there are 200,000 firearms (190,000 long-arms and 10,000 handguns) in the domestic illicit market. This is a reduction compared to the previous estimate released publicly in 2016.

This revised estimate is based on a range of intelligence sources, including historical and updated firearm importation figures, seizure trends, and the number of firearms surrendered during the course of Commonwealth, state and territory amnesties.

There are a number of variables involved in reaching this assessment, and the ACIC will continue to review this estimation as more definitive information becomes available.”

The Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA National) contacted the ACIC for further explanation but was declined further comment. In particular, clarification was sought around the unchanged nature of the estimated number of illicit handguns in circulation.

The estimation of Australia’s illicit firearm numbers dates back to 2012. SSAA National chief executive officer Tim Bannister questioned the number’s origin when he was a councillor on the Office of Home Affair’s Commonwealth Firearms Advisory Committee. Labor’s Jason Clare admitted the number was determined internally from a ‘guestimate’ by one department which was then taken up by another department – there was no scientific basis on the formation of the number. It has been bandied about by mainstream media and politicians in search of a number to bring credibility to their viewpoint. SSAA National has continued to challenge the figure on numerous occasions and it remains a point of contention.

While the number is technically no longer outdated, estimating the number of illegal firearms in Australia without any method of establishing accuracy is dangerous when ultimately it is law-abiding firearm owners who bear the brunt of any negativity and changes to firearm laws. These are the people who have gone through the checks and balances to be granted a licence are being lumped in the same camp as potential criminals, despite the Australian Institute of Criminology time and time again finding it is unlicensed people with unregistered, illegal firearms who are responsible for gun crimes. In almost all cases these crimes are drug, gang and organised crime-related.

Read more commentary on this topic:

Grey area – illegal gun number ‘steady’ for a decade

Illegal gun number estimates outdated and misleading

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