SYDNEY - Australians have handed in 51,000 weapons during the first national gun amnesty in more than 20 years.
Authorities in Australia believe the three-month gun amnesty that ran through Sept. 30 has made the country safer. By their count, 51,461 firearms were surrendered in Australia’s first no-questions-asked amnesty since a mass shooting in the state of Tasmania in 1996.
A proliferation of illicit weapons and the potential impact on national security prompted the government to urge Australians to hand in their firearms without fear of prosecution. Officials were worried that unwanted military-style rifles, pistols and shotguns could fall into the hands of extremists and criminal gangs.
It is estimated that there are about 260,000 unregistered weapons in Australia, which has some of the world’s toughest gun control measures. They include a 28-day waiting period, comprehensive background checks, and a requirement to have a “justifiable reason” to own a firearm. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since the legislation was introduced.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the measures are crucial to Australian society.
“Now, it is vitally important that we maintain our gun control laws. They are among the strictest in the world,” he said. “We have seen the shocking tragedy in Las Vegas. The killer there had a collection of semi-automatic weapons, which a person in his position would simply not be able to acquire in Australia. So, we have strict gun control laws ... we do not take anything for granted.”
Anyone found with an unregistered firearm in Australia now faces up to 14 years in prison or a heavy fine.
The opposition Labor party has called for the three-month gun amnesty to be extended, and for life sentences to be handed down on criminals who smuggle firearms into Australia.