[ACNS] The Bishop of the North West Region in the Diocese of Melbourne has called on the Australian government to introduce a gun amnesty amid “heightened fears of terrorist attacks and vastly increased gun crime in Australia.” He made his call as the Metropolitan Police in London announced a two-week gun amnesty in Britain’s capital would begin on Monday.
Bishop Philip Huggins said that the 1998 Australian gun amnesty, which followed the Port Arthur massacre, was “immensely successful” but that “the number of guns in the community has been rising steadily” since then.
“One way to minimise the risk of a Paris massacre in our places of recreation is to gather the guns and destroy them,” Bishop Huggins said. “There is a deep fear in the community about events like Paris last week. Each day there are reports of gun violence, people shot and dying.
“Gun amnesties and positive moves to re-engage those at risk of religious extremism have worked in other countries. We have to all be convinced again that Paris will never happen here in our beautiful, multicultural Australia.
“That requires confidence-building measures such as active community disarmament. Otherwise fear of the other will take over, impacting too on incoming refugees and migrants.”
Bishop Huggins, who chairs the Anglican Church of Australia’s national working group on refugees and asylum seekers, said that building confidence requires the involvement of young people who are alienated and at risk of extremism; and suggested that incentives could include free access to education and training and building pathways to a positive social identity.
“The alternative is a creeping fear, the further erosion of civil liberties – armed guards everywhere, even on a Friday night at a restaurant or concert. The time to act is now.”
Bishop Huggins is calling on the Australian government to receive the guns, then destroy them publicly to prevent them being corruptly re-circulated.
A similar amnesty was announced by London’s Metropolitan Police on Friday afternoon.
Its “Firearms Surrender Campaign” will run from 7.00 am on Monday 23 November to 11.00 pm on Sunday 6 December and will “give Londoners the opportunity to safely dispose of firearms, imitation weapons or ammunition, by taking them to a local 24-hour police station and handing them in,” a spokesman for the Met said.
At the same time, they are warning of the dangers posed to users of imitation firearms; saying that they can appear to be real weapons “even to the highly-trained eye of a firearms officer.”
“Last weekend’s tragic events in Paris have inevitably led to a heightened state of alert on the capital’s streets,” Detective Superintendent Stephen Clayman said. “Gun crime, whilst low in London compared with other world cities, has a devastating impact on communities.”
A similar firearms surrender last year resulted in over 350 firearms and 12,300 rounds of ammunition being handed in to London’s police.