Sydney surgeon and chair of the RACS Trauma Committee Dr John Crozier acknowledges Australia has some of the tightest gun controls in the world but says incidents like what happened in Queensland last week show there is no room for complacency.
“We are lucky to live in a country free from alarming gun violence statistics. It is testament to the effectiveness of the laws that were introduced in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre.”
RACS trauma surgeons were on hand that day in 1996 when 35 people were killed by semi-automatic rifle fire. A College training course had just been held in Hobart and the attendant surgeons helped at the hospital as the injured patients were brought in.
“That was a dark day for Australia,” says Dr Crozier.
“We’ve made some real, positive changes since then. The government’s response in that instance was decisive and is to be applauded, but the work wasn’t finished there. These laws need to be regularly reviewed, reassessed and, where improvements can be made, tightened up.”
University of Sydney statistics from 2021 show Australian civilians own more than 3.5 million registered firearms; an average of four for each licensed gun owner.
While figures suggest a significant shift in the gun culture over the past 25 years, with the proportion of Australian’s holding a gun licence falling by 48 per cent since 1997, they also suggest there is a small pocket of the population who haven’t changed. People who already own guns are buying more of them.
Dr Crozier says it is regrettable it has taken another tragedy to build support for further firearm controls including a national gun register.
“As a surgeon, I see the seriousness of the trauma associated with firearms, both physical and emotional. Gun violence tears families and communities apart.”
RACS recommends a compulsory national register for all firearms, which would allow Police to quickly identify the owner of a gun even across state boundaries.
“Registration makes the owner personally responsibility for every gun they own. It creates stronger incentives for licensed firearms owners to store their weapons correctly, report thefts and not lend or sell their weapons to unlicensed people,” says Dr Crozier.
The College also calls for:
- the banning and prohibition of importation by individuals of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns
- continued compulsory training, education and licensing measures
- a mechanism for regular review of firearms control laws.
Abderazzaq Noor/ +61 429 028 933