Cash for guns mooted with year-round amnesty

By Chris Thomson | posted on October 5, 2017

STATE and Great Southern authorities are hailing the national firearms amnesty that ended last week a great success, but an expert in Australian gun culture questions whether it will reduce crime.

This week, Police District Superintendent for Great Southern Dominic Wood confirmed 127 guns were handed in across the region during the three-month amnesty.

“That means that, across the Great Southern, 127 firearms are now in safe hands and potentially not in the hands of criminals,” Superintendent Wood said.

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank the community for their support and to the media for assisting us to promote this campaign and help us keep the community safe.

“Even though the amnesty is over, if any member of the public still comes across found and unwanted firearms across the Great Southern and wants to hand them in, they can still do so at any police station without fear of prosecution.”

A final breakdown of weapon types will not be available until next week but last week 29 rifles, 10 shotguns and five handguns had been handed in across the Great Southern.

Police Minister Michelle Roberts said the amnesty exceeded expectations, with more than 1200 guns surrendered across Western Australia.

“Disturbingly, among the surrendered items was an assortment of high-powered weapons and guns that had been modified, presumably for no other reason than criminal purposes,” Mrs Roberts said.

“I’m pleased to say these are now on the way to the scrap heap.”

But Edith Cowan University researcher Martin MacCarthy, who specialises in Australian gun culture, questioned whether the amnesty would translate to a reduction in crime.

“We’re certainly getting rid of unlicensed firearms and indeed I think the community is better off if that is the case,” Dr MacCarthy said.

“To suggest that it reduces crime is an odd one, given that the criminals who own unlicensed firearms are unlikely to be motivated to hand these things in.

“I think the people who would misuse them would not be the sort of people who would hand them in without an incentive.”

Dr MacCarthy said any amnesty should run constantly.

“It shouldn’t just go for one or two months and then stop,” he said.

“If there’s no downside to people handing these things in, then why wouldn’t you have it all day, every day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year so people can hand them in?”

Dr MacCarthy said there would be nothing like a cash incentive to get people to hand in their weapons.

“And indeed why not occasionally have, say, a $50 voucher given to anybody who hands in a weapon so you’re actually incentivising people,” Dr MacCarthy said.

“If you want to get rid of these things, which have the potential to take life, surely $50 is nothing when you think about it.”