A three-month national illicit firearms campaign that aims to encourage the safe surrender of guns to authorities was launched on Thursday.
Australians are being encouraged to come forward with information about illicit firearms, or to hand their own in, as part of a government campaign with Crime Stoppers. People can either report information via www.crimestoppers.com.au or call 1800 333 000.
In a statement announcing the new campaign, home affairs minister Karen Andrews said the government was committed to stamping out gun violence in the community.
“If you surrender [an illegal firearm], you can do so without penalty. The alternative is a knock on your door from the police and the potential for serious criminal penalties, including imprisonment,” Andrews said.
“Illegal guns are more likely to be used in crime, more likely to be defective or insecurely stored, and more likely to be involved in accidents. There is no excuse — indeed no legitimate reason — for anyone in Australia to have an illicit firearm,” the minister added.
An illegal gun is a dangerous gun.
Say something before it is too late.
We will keep your information safe and confidential.
Tell us what you know online or on 1800 333 000
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— Crime Stoppers Australia (@AUCrimeStoppers) February 3, 2022
Dr Vince Hughes, chair of Crime Stoppers Australia, said that local incidents involving illegal firearms had led to loss of life and severe injury. He called on members of the public to not turn a blind eye if they had knowledge about such weapons or to surrender arms while the amnesty was available.
“The demand for illegal firearms is driven by organised crime groups right through to low level individual criminals, who want and use firearms to protect their interests and to commit violent acts,” Hughes said.
“If you suspect that someone has an illegal gun, share what you know with Crime Stoppers before it is too late. Report safely without the need to say who you are, get involved, or put yourself at risk of harm.”
According to Jason Wood, the assistant minister for customs, community safety and multicultural affairs, the community campaign will engage friends and families of gun-owners to speak up and share relevant information. This included information about people in possession of unregistered and unwanted firearms, parts and accessories.
“You may think you know a person well, but owners of illegal guns have not been subject to background checks and may not be on the radar of police,” he said.
“In the criminal underworld, the weapon of choice is an illegal firearm. In many cases, criminal gangs will target individuals who have illegal firearms to gain access to weapons.”
Wood noted that there were an estimated 260,000 unregistered weapons in circulation in Australia.
Information about how to surrender a firearm can be found on the Crime Stoppers website.