COMMENT: Gun owners ‘punished’ by the rule breakers

Firearms that were surrendered to police for destruction at Batemans Bay Police
Station during August's amnesty.
Firearms that were surrendered to police for destruction at Batemans Bay Police Station during August's amnesty.

Gun safety has sparked good debate in the office over the last week. 

The horrifying death of a young girl in Sydney recently sparked calls to tighten laws around gun storage. 

There’s just one problem: the shotgun that killed that poor girl was illegal, unregistered and perhaps most terrifying of all, loaded.

And as devastating as that accident is, thousands of legitimate gun owners could stand to be ‘punished’ for the abhorrent actions of a solitary rule breaker. 

Existing NSW law dictates that guns must be kept in a locked safe or appropriate lockable container (depending on the category of weapon), while ammunition has to be kept separately in another locked container. 

There should be no way this child ever had access to both a gun and the cartridge to fire it. 

But it’s still a polarising argument: there are those who want guns gone entirely, and there are avid shooters who want fewer restrictions.

And excuse the pun, but horrifying accidents like this always provide ammunition for those on the side of the former. 

However, the crux of the argument always boils down to so many of these shooting accidents or gun crimes being perpetrated by those who already have a disregard for the law. 

NSW Police Minister Troy Grant summed it up rather concisely "There is no way to ensure the safe storage of an unregistered and prohibited firearm”. 

We already have some of the most stringent gun ownership – and storage – laws of any country in the world, so calls to further restrict those laws are impactful on the law-abiding owners, but often based on the actions of those who already disregard the law. 

Mr Grant described the laws in NSW as both “strict” and “robust”.

Thankfully we are not in America where gun laws can only be described as atrocious and popular thinking seems to follow the crackpot idea that the best route to tackling gun crime is with more guns. 

I’m glad we’re not them and there is no second amendment debate or “right” to bear arms. 

As Australians most of us seem to accept that gun ownership is both a privilege and a responsibility. 

But altering gun laws based on the actions of those who already blatantly disregard our laws begs the question, why must the many be punished on the actions of the few?