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Australian Gun Debate Flares Amid Calls For National Ownership Registry

The Australian Medical Association wants tightened national gun lawns.

04/01/2017 3:07 PM AEDT | Updated 04/01/2017 3:45 PM AEDT
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The Australian Medical Association has called for a real-time, national firearms register.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is calling for tightened gun ownership laws and a national real-time firearms register to help authorities curb gun violence.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said it is concerning there are certain groups attempting to influence changes to the National Firearms Agreement that was established after the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.

"There is a legitimate role for guns in agriculture, regulated sport, and for the military and police, but gun possession in the broader community is a risk to public health," Gannon said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"In the nearly 21 years since Port Arthur, gun deaths in Australia have halved, thanks to the National Firearms Agreement. Restricting access to firearms reduces the risk of impulsive purchase and use of guns, and their use in intentional acts of violence, including suicide."

"We have a good record since 1996 of minimising the number of senseless deaths from guns but unless we are vigilant, then we will head down the US path. The measures called for today are very sensible."Dr Stephen Parnis, Consultant Emergency Physician

According to the AMA, illegal gun ownership in Australia remains a problem that confirms the need for tighter gun laws.

"It is estimated that there are anywhere between 260,000 and six million guns held illegally in Australia, and most gun-related deaths in Australia are suicides within the families of gun owners," Gannon said.

"Gun laws should be tougher, and not watered down in any way. We strongly oppose any campaigns or policies that seek to dilute or relax the restrictions on firearm purchase and ownership, such as winding back the mandatory 'cooling off' period between applying for and buying a gun."

Dr Stephen Parnis is a consultant emergency physician based in Melbourne who has worked on the front-line of injures relating to gun violence. He told the Huffington Post Australia the misuse of guns is one of the greatest risks to the community in Australia.

"If guns are not known to the authorities they are at a much greater risk of being misused. We know of so many guns that cause problems... and so many of those guns have no record of ownership.

"We have a good record since 1996 of minimising the number of senseless deaths from guns but unless we are vigilant, then we will head down the US path. The measures called for today are very sensible."

Parnis told Huff Post Australia that in his 24 years in the emergency ward, he had only seen two cases of gun-related trauma.

"I'll never forget them. The damage done to those patients was horrific and I see significant trauma on a regular basis. I would not wish that upon my worst enemy.

"Prevention is always better than a cure. Access to guns and inappropriate use of firearms is the thing we need to guard against. The human body is not designed to absorb a bullet and the damage inflicted is absolutely astounding."

According to the ABC, the Sporting Shooters' Association of Australia (SSAA) has called the AMA's proposal unnecessary, claiming the focus should solely be on illegal firearm use.

Geoff Jones, the national president of the SSAA, said: "We're not necessarily vehemently against it, but we think that any funds put towards this could be far better directed towards illegal firearms and illegal firearms use in Australia."

For Parnis, the focus on illegal gun ownership and a national registry needs to be a joint occurrence in order to benefit the collective Australian community.

"The focus on illegal use must occur in parallel with a registry. Legitimate sporting shooters undertake their activities under strict regulations," he said.

"Increasing the knowledge of ownership will only help them and so we're working with [the SSAA], not against them."

The renewed debate comes after pro-gun libertarian and NSW Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm accused the AMA of not being qualified to debate gun ownership, citing errors and poor research in their statment announcement.

"It falls into the category of what the difference is between God and a doctor," he said.

"God doesn't think he's a doctor."

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