THE BLOG

The AMA Has A Poor Aim On Gun Laws

It's latest initiative misses the target.

05/01/2017 10:44 AM AEDT | Updated 05/01/2017 10:49 AM AEDT
Getty Images

The Australian Medical Association is the backbone of... well, bones, along with every other facet of the anatomy. It represents trusted professionals in the various fields of medicine and over the years has made some positive contributions to health policy in Australia.

However, like a GP trying to fly a jumbo, the AMA should stick to what it's good at.

This week the industry body released a policy statement, arguing that if we don't tighten our gun laws and remain vigilant, "...we will head down the US path".

Unfortunately, it seems the AMA isn't too sure at which windmill they're actually tilting. They start by acknowledging that in the "...21 years since Port Arthur, gun deaths in Australia have halved, thanks to the National Firearms Agreement".

True. The initiatives taken by the Howard Government to tighten gun ownership regulations have had an undeniable impact on our society. There has not been a mass murder by a single gunman in this country since 1996.

They go on to claim that 'if guns are not known to the authorities they are at a much greater risk of being misused'. Apart from 'paging Doctor Obvious' the AMA believes that a national register of legally held firearms, either over-and-above or as a replacement for the current state government registers, is the necessary step forward.

So current state gun registries aren't catching illegal firearm owners, therefore we need a national registry, because obviously willful owners of illegal firearms will be immediately swayed by the kangaroo-and-emu-adorned federal crest on the front cover of the new legislation and throw up their arms, 'I surrender'. Pardon?

The simple fact is our gun laws are working as far as regulating who can have legal access to legal firearms. They have done since Prime Minister Howard oversaw their implementation in 1996, resulting in fewer gun deaths from registered firearms.

In the AMA's own statement, it's illegal firearms that are responsible for the vast majority of gun violence. Therefore the answer is to further tighten gun regulations for those abiding by the current laws?

As the national president of the Sport Shooting Association of Australia Geoff Jones alluded to in his response to the AMA's initiative, surely the focus should be on encouraging greater funding and resources for law enforcement specialists attempting to combat illegal gun ownership, rather than new laws to find guns that are already registered.

There is an argument to be made for restricting or curtailing the proliferation of high-powered, high ammunition capacity, rapid loading or semi-automatic weapons. In the '90s, it was the widespread legal ownership among weekend shooters of cheap, military style, high-calibre, semi-automatic weapons, like the Chinese and Eastern European versions of the 7.62mm SKK and SKS, that led to these types of weapons being used in horrific acts of violence like the Strathfield Plaza massacre and, of course, Port Arthur.

More recently, debate has ensued regarding the importation of the Adler lever-action shotgun, which really just came down to the rapid reload rate of a lever action gun matched with a high magazine capacity. The Adler isn't the only lever action weapon on the market, however it is the only lever action .12 gauge that can hold seven shells in the magazine and another up the pipe.

Since the debate started, a compromise has been reached on the magazine size, along with state-by-state restrictions on who can own the weapon, which has allowed its importation.

The simple fact is our gun laws are working as far as regulating who can have legal access to legal firearms. They have done since Prime Minister Howard oversaw their implementation in 1996, resulting in fewer gun deaths from registered firearms.

The AMA is right in that we cannot afford to see our gun laws watered down. However, claiming we need to have tighter gun ownership regulation in order to combat illegal ownership of firearms is, at best, a poorly conceived policy pie that needed a little more time in the oven.

More On This Topic