Australia is heralded for its strict gun laws, but it's time to wake up to the fact they are eroding.

Australia, we need to talk about our gun laws, because things aren’t as rosy as you probably think.

Once again, the US is struggling to make sense of its rampant gun violence after Omar Mateen turned an Orlando night club into a bloodbath, inflicting the nation’s deadliest mass shooting in its history.

The murderer shot dead 49 people and injured 50 others after storming the gay music venue Pulse armed with an assault rifle and a 9mm semi-automatic handgun.

In the wake of such carnage, gun control advocates herald Australia as a shining example for its strict gun laws introduced by former prime minister John Howard in 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre killing 35 people.

President Barack Obama has once more issued a rallying call for tighter gun control, as has White House hopeful Hillary Clinton. Even Donald Trump is ready to discuss new measures.

So far in 2016, the USA has lost 6101 lives to gun violence and suffered 141 mass shootings. Australia hasn’t seen a massacre (five deaths or more) in 20 years.

So it makes sense that gob-smacked Americans look to pick apart how Australia successfully eliminated the horror of mass shootings by outlawing deadly weapons like those used by Mateen and introducing  a gun buy-back scheme.

Obama speaks to a US town hall about gun laws. Post continues after video…  



“Ninety-five per cent of Australians believe everything is okay. They don’t want semi-automatic guns, and they want to be safe … (but) things have been slowly eroding since 1996,” GCA spokesman Charles Watson said.

Fearing there was too much complacency, the Curtin University professor warned that most people didn’t realise there had been changes to legislation “putting us all at risk”.

Prof Watson said most alarming was the move in August by the Coalition, after successful lobbying by pro-gun groups, to permit the importation and sale of new Turkish-made Adler A110 lever-action shotguns, misleadingly classed like a hunting rifle.

He said while Adler guns – with a price tag of about $850 – were not defined as semi-automatic, they had rapid-fire shooting capacities of five rounds or more in as many seconds, thereby undermining Australia’s tough gun laws. More than 7000 have been brought into the country.

The move to allow them was despite a warning from the Australian Crime Commission about the danger of DIY magazine extensions that could more than double their rounds. These guns are available with a standard Category A or B gun license, of which there are 700,000 registered in Australia.

A ban has been imposed on the eight-shot Adler, which expires in two months. The fate of the gun and other lever-action shotguns will be decided as part of a review into aspects of the Howard Government’s 1996 National Firearms Agreement. GCA are calling for them to be prohibited.

The Adler A110 lever-action shotgun. Image via 

“The firearm currently classified as a low-powered hunting rifle (Category A firearm) has now evolved into a modern firearm that looks and operates like a semi-automatic weapon,” GCA chair Samantha Lee said.

“Australia is historically proud of its gun laws but unfortunately, following years of political pressure from a well-financed gun lobby, we’re now in a position where high-powered weapons are being imported under low-powered licenses.

“Our national stockpile of guns ... continues to grow, with very little consideration given to the impact this has on public and community safety.”

Gun laws were significantly tightened in Australia after Martin Bryant killed 35 people at Port Arthur. But things are slowly changing.

But the Adler shotgun is not all that  GCA is worried about, also drawing on the following watered-down laws:

  • Recreational shooting is no longer banned in National Parks in NSW and Victoria. Silencers are now also allowed within NSW.
  • Children as young as 10 and 14 are allowed to shoot a gun in some states.
  • There are no longer waiting periods on obtaining a second or subsequent firearm once you hold a license. This means essential police and mental health checks are not being carried out each time a firearm is purchased.
  • There is currently no restriction on the number of firearms per license holder. The GCA is aware of some licence holders who own more than 100 - and they are not all collectors.

Prof Watson stressed GCA was not anti-gun but simply wanted in place sensible legislation that supported farmers and recreational shooters but also protected the community from serious danger.

He said mass shootings in the US like the latest tragedy in Orlando should in part be treated as a wake-up call for Australians and urged them to contact their local MPs to take action.

"We are heading to a place where we might not be okay."