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Gun co-operation will produce safer communities.

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Media Release SENATOR THE HON. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for Western Australia

E34/02 4 April 2002

Gun co-operation will produce safer communities

All levels of government, as well as the community, have a responsibility to work together to reduce gun-related crime, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said today.

He was commenting on statements yesterday by NSW Police Minister, Michael Costa, that were critical of border controls on guns.

“The Commonwealth is at the forefront of national measures to reduce the number of guns in our community and we will continue our work with the NSW Government to provide the maximum safeguards for the community,” Senator Ellison said. “Commonwealth controls on handgun imports introduced last year are so strict it is difficult to make them any tougher without actually banning them outright.

“The Commonwealth and States, including NSW, are already working together on this issue through the Working Group of Handgun Crime established in 2000 to examine enhanced firearms standards, intelligence sharing arrangements and a nationally-consistent approach to firearms trafficking.”

Senator Ellison said gun-control measures already taken by the Commonwealth include: • The National Firearms Agreement of 1996 which involves the Commonwealth working with the States and Territories to tighten gun regulations. • Tightening of import restrictions on handguns in April 2001, requiring that imports of handguns,

and most sales of imported handguns, need permission from State and/or Territory police. • Tougher controls on handgun frames and receivers.

“Customs has an array of technology at airports, sea ports, air cargo and international mail centres to help detect guns and gun parts. Every container that enters the country is screened and risk assessed, with those that present the greatest risk being searched. Customs’ ability to scrutinise incoming freight will improve dramatically later this year with the arrival of container x-ray units at Customs’ Sydney and Melbourne facilities. Additional container x-ray units, costing $39.8 m for Freemantle and Brisbane airports, formed part of the Howard Government’s Protecting Australia’s Borders commitment at the last Federal election.

“I am pleased to note that last financial year Customs seized 812 illegally imported firearms, nearly three and a half times the number seized the previous year. This included 204 handguns, up from 79 the previous year.

“Just as Customs accepts responsibility for border controls, we should remember that States and Territories must accept responsibility for handguns once they have been imported. We cannot ignore reports of stocks of handguns, many imported legally in the past, which remain within the community.

“The task of any government is to provide a safe community, and the Commonwealth stands ready to work with the States to achieve progress on gun-related crime,” Senator Ellison said.

Media Inquiries: Louise Patroni 02 6277 7260 or 0418 420 917