Queenslanders going for more gun licences, with 30 per cent increase in permits issued in past year

By Elise Worthington ABC


Photo: Sport shooting is becoming increasingly popular across Queensland. (ABC News: Elise Worthington)

More Queenslanders are applying for firearms licences, according to new figures obtained by the ABC.

Documents released under Right to Information laws showed a steady increase in gun permit applications with more than 170,124 individual licence holders currently in possession of 566,427 firearms across the state.

The figures also show there are 49 people – excluding police, military and dealers – with more than 100 firearms each, up from 32 people in 2013.

Last year the number of gun licence applications increased by 30 per cent with 45,870 permits issued.

Permits issued by year

· 2010: 30,442

· 2011: 30,962

· 2012: 34,791

· 2013: 45,870

· 2014 (To July): 24,793

Part of the sharp rise was due to the State Government’s three-month weapons amnesty early last year, which saw 6,500 previously unregistered guns licensed in 2013.

The Queensland president of the Sporting Shooters Association Australia, Geoff Jones, said the association had seen a surge in new members.

“There’s certainly a spike in interest and an awareness that this is actually a legitimate sport and we are not criminals,” he said.

“We’ve been more proactive in promoting the positive aspects of what we do and getting the message out there that the sport is incredibly safe.

“Even we are a little bit surprised by the steady increase … but we have no reason to believe it won’t continue.”

Safety course enrolments on the rise

You’ll never ever find a shooter in the hospital. In over 100 years no-one has been accidentally injured on a firing range.

Chris Ray, Queensland Military Rifle Club president

Queensland Military Rifle Club (QMRC) president Chris Ray said there had also been an increase in safety course enrolments.

“All of the classes are absolutely booked out. We can only handle about 30 to 35 [people], and month after month, week after week, all of the classes are booked out,” he said.

“The people coming in are mostly in their 20s and 30s. I think they’ve had enough of television and video games, and they’re looking for something a bit more realistic, a bit more traditional.

“Hunting and shooting is a traditional Australian cultural pursuit and I think they’re turning back to these things.”

Mr Ray said shooting was one of the safest sports in the country.

“If you go into hospitals on the weekend you’ll find plenty of footballers, tennis players, all sorts of sporting people who’ve had accidents and hurt themselves,” he said.

Sporting Shooters Association Australia Queensland members

· June 2010: 45,713

· June 2011: 47,183

· June 2012: 49,484

· June 2013: 52,642

· June 2014: 57,855

· July 2014: 58,104

“You’ll never ever find a shooter in the hospital. In over 100 years no-one has been accidentally injured on a firing range.”

QMRC captain Peter Richards said the amount of time since the Port Arthur Massacre might have also played a role in the surge of numbers.

“Since 1996 and the subsequent issues around firearm ownership I think people have realised that guns aren’t as dangerous as what they’re made out to be in the media, and that’s what’s bringing a lot of people back,” he said.

No reason for more than 100 guns: Gun Control Australia

Gun control advocates said there was something wrong with a system that allowed individuals to accumulate more than 100 weapons.

Gun Control Australia chair Samantha Lee said there was no reason why anyone should be in possession of so many weapons, and Queensland gun laws needed to change.

I can see no reason why someone should be able to accumulate so many firearms within the community.

Gun Control Australia chairgirl Samantha Lee

“The way a person is allowed to get additional firearms is by showing that they need an additional firearm. It beggars belief as to why someone needs up to 10 or 100 firearms each,” she said.

“I can see no reason why someone should be able to accumulate so many firearms within the community.

“One has to note that these guns are then allowed to be stored in the home in a residential area.”

Ms Lee also criticised the Queensland Government’s decision to form a Ministerial Advisory Panel with the majority of members representing the gun lobby.

“This council membership is stacked of just pro-gun lobby members. It has no public health members, it has no domestic violence members, it has no members from the community who are concerned about firearms laws,” she said.

“It’s a bit like having tobacco company directors on a committee advising the government about tobacco.

“There’s a huge conflict of interest and unfortunately there’s a very cosy relationship in Queensland between the gun lobby and the Government.”

The Queensland Government said it was committed to cutting red tape for gun owners but had not watered down safety precautions.

Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey said the role of the panel was to discuss how “to reduce the red tape, delays and bureaucracy legitimate firearms users face when applying for a licence or new weapon”.