Gun import tariffs suggested as Queensland pushes for firearms registry at national cabinet

Federal police union says new register could be funded through criminal seizures or new weapon tax

The federal police association says a proposed new national firearms registry to be discussed at a national cabinet meeting could be funded through seized proceeds of crime or a tariff placed on firearm importers.

Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, will lead the push for a comprehensive national ownership registry at Friday’s meeting, after the shooting deaths of two young constables and a neighbour at a remote property in her state in December.

A spokesperson for the premier said Palaszczuk “is hopeful significant progress will be made so all states are working together”.

A national firearms database was first called for after the 1987 Hoddle Street shooting in Melbourne and similar recommendations were made after the 1996 Port Arthur shootings and the Lindt cafe siege in 2014.

The Australian federal police association’s president, Alex Caruana, said an existing database – currently plagued with inconsistencies across state borders – could be used as a “skeleton”, but needed “meat added to it.”

“What was developed was very shortsighted. It was developed with a very small set of criteria,” he told Guardian Australia.

“We need to see a uniform approach from all of the states on the collection of the data and the use of the data to keep people and police officers safe. The biggest issue is there is not a … uniform system to be used by police.”

A proper centralised national register would allow officers in any location in Australia to access the same information in real time, thereby determining if a person holds an interstate gun licence. It would help track guns and gun owners across the country.

Caruana said seized proceeds of crime – which falls under federal legislation – could be used by states, territories and the federal government to create the reform.

“Let’s turn it back into something positive to keep the community safe,” he said.

Caruana also suggested a tariff on firearm importers could also provide funding for the reform.

The existing national database – the Australian firearms information network (Afin) – is run by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and aims to track the movement of firearms. Every state and territory uses their own technology to feed into the Afin, but each has different definitions for firearms and ammunition, creating inconsistencies.

Caruana said many police forces also recorded incomplete information and there was no uniform agreement on what information is required.

“There is no incentive for states to put their information in the federal database,” he said.

He said the reform should create a single database that could mine data from every jurisdiction.

“We don’t want the states having to input data into their own system and then duplicate it into a single system,” he said.

The Afpa has also been pushing for a parliamentary inquiry into the issue.

Asked about the discussion of a national gun registry, a Victorian government spokesperson said “we are willing to work constructively with the other jurisdictions in considering this matter and national cabinet is the appropriate forum for this to happen”.

Dr Samara McPhedran, a University of Queensland gun control researcher, said there was a lack of transparency about the issues that needed to be solved with the existing database.

“There doesn’t seem to be much clarity about this in the public domain,” she said.

“We need to know what is held within that system, what each state and territory is providing and what processes there are for integrating the data into one system.”

In December Gareth Train, his wife, Stacey, and his brother, Nathaniel, ambushed police, shooting dead constables Rachel McCrow and Matthew Arnold and the Train’s neighbour Alan Dare.

Prior to the shooting, Nathaniel Train had his New South Wales gun licence suspended and an arrest warrant issued after he breached Covid-19 restrictions in 2021.


Adeshola Ore

The GuardianTramp

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