Australia’s First National Gun Amnesty: Good Or Bad Decision?

The increasing threat of terrorism and a huge influx of illegal arms demands an urgent attention for Australia’s national security. Acting upon this, the government has announced its first national gun amnesty since the Port Arthur massacre. As reported by BBC News, “The amnesty begins amid growing debate about Australia’s security, and how people such as Lindt Cafe siege gunman Man Haron Monis got access to weapons.”

According to Justice Minister Michael Keenan, the amnesty will come into effect on  July 1st for a period of three months, wherein people can surrender their unregistered weapons without the fear of prosecution. Those who fail to utilise this opportunity and are caught outside the period of three months will have to face fines of up to A$280,000 or up to 14 years in prison.

Keenan has further claimed that illegal guns were used in some of the recent terror attacks in Australia as well as for various organised crimes. Therefore, the fundamental aim of establishing an amnesty program is to keep some of Australia’s 260,000 illegal weapons out of terrorists’ hands.

The move for a gun amnesty is definitely a step in the right direction. But will it really help to keep terrorism out of Australia’s territory? This question has been pondering in the minds of many who have remained critical of the government’s opinion. Several gun control advocates have labelled the amnesty program as a “Band-Aid” solution with no long term benefits to curb terrorism in the country. Moreover, the vice-president of Gun Control Australia, Roland Browne, articulated it very clearly to The World Today that, “Amnesties are good in the sense that they take guns out of the hands of the community who don’t need them and that’s especially helpful in the case of suicide, but if you are dealing with people who are hell-bent on causing terror, they are not going to hand in their guns.”

Rightfully, his concerns are legitimate. An amnesty will not motivate the terrorists, who are fully committed to their ideologies and particularly against the westerners, to surrender their weapons so easily. So the problem of terrorism will really remain unresolved and the amnesty will serve as an “easy fix,” with an effect on only small scale crimes. Henceforth, the government should have sought for a more comprehensive solution to remove the problem from its root by the transfer of weapons from legal holders to the illegal ones.

If the government is willing to make efforts in order to combat terrorism, it should take the advice of various stakeholders involved and only then a fruitful solution can be achieved. Gun Control Australia has already raised some of its concerns and has provided an action plan that reduces the manoeuvrability of the terrorists, such as the introduction of better gun storage laws to prevent theft, a ban on semi-automatic handgun and stricter licensing requirements.

Terrorism is definitely on an increase throughout the world and Australia has not been spared. But if timely decisions and an appropriate plan are followed by the government which resonates that of the stakeholders, then Australia can deal with this growing threat.

Akanksha Khullar

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