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ACT police to share gun intelligence with states

Date

Christopher Knaus

The ACT will work with other states on new reforms designed to cut deadly gun crime by better sharing firearm intelligence to prevent the leaking of weapons into the black market.

Police ministers from across Australia were meeting in Melbourne today to discuss cracking down on gun crime, which has escalated dramatically in the recent bikie gang turf wars in Sydney.

The Australian Crime Commission estimates there are a quarter of a million illegal firearms in Australia, which are either stolen, or were not handed in after the Port Arthur massacre. 

Police Minister Simon Corbell said the meeting had reached in-principle agreement for the development of a national ballistics identification network and a national firearms registry.

The ministers also agreed to implement a national firearms identification database.The Commonwealth will also introduce a new offence of aggravated firearm trafficking, which will have a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Gaps in state and territory legislation around firearm use and possession will also be identified by new working groups, which are tasked to report back by November.

The Australian Crime Commission's ability to trace firearms will be further enhanced by the referral of data on stolen firearms from states and territories for analysis.  

Mr Corbell said the agreements would help to ensure that information on gun crime was properly gathered and shared across Australia.

"While the ACT does not see some of the higher levels of firearm related crime that is emerging in larger jurisdictions, we must continue to work hard to ensure that our laws and information sharing arrangements with other jurisdictions are up-to-date," he said.

"We know that criminal activity does not respect borders and this decision today shows that governments are acting to further bolster arrangements between state and territory policing agencies to better protect members of the community.

"These steps will deliver significant and lasting benefits for firearms regulation and law enforcement activities."

The ministers were meeting as part of the Standing Council of Police and Emergency Management in Melbourne today.

A new Firearm Intelligence Targeting Team will also be created within Customs and Border Protection to target key criminal groups operations at Australia's borders.

The Federal Government will also look at vulnerabilities to firearm trafficking in Australia's air freight system, and there will be a national awareness campaign on unlicensed firearms.

The meeting proposed a presumption against bail across states and territories for serious firearm offences. 

States and territories will also consider introducing laws that make any person in possession of an illegal firearm liable for any previous offences linked to that firearm.They will also consider giving police the power to search a person, their vehicle, or premises if they suspect that anyone on a Firearm Prohibition Order is in possession of a firearm.

Mr Corbell said he holds "serious reservations" about giving police new powers, changing the presumption of bail, or linking those in posession of illegal firearms to previous offences linked to that weapon.

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