Surgeons call for national gun register

Friday, 23 December, 2022

Surgeons call for national gun register

The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) has voiced its support for a national gun register.

Dr John Crozier, Sydney surgeon and chair of the RACS Trauma Committee, acknowledged the Australian gun controls as being some of the tightest in the world, but said incidents like the one in Queensland recently show there is no room for complacency.

“We are lucky to live in a country free from alarming gun violence statistics. It is testament to the effectiveness of the laws that were introduced in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre.”

RACS trauma surgeons were on hand that day in 1996 when 35 people were killed by semi-automatic rifle fire. A training course had just been held in Hobart and the attendant surgeons helped at the hospital as the injured patients were brought in.

“That was a dark day for Australia,” Crozier said.

“We’ve made some real, positive changes since then. The government’s response in that instance was decisive and is to be applauded, but the work wasn’t finished there. These laws need to be regularly reviewed, reassessed and, where improvements can be made, tightened up.”

Crozier said it is regrettable it has taken another tragedy to build support for further firearm controls including a national gun register.

“As a surgeon, I see the seriousness of the trauma associated with firearms, both physical and emotional. Gun violence tears families and communities apart.”

RACS has recommended a compulsory national register for all firearms to allow police to quickly identify the owner of a gun even across state boundaries.

University of Sydney statistics from 2021 show that the proportion of Australians holding a gun licence has fallen by 48% since 1997, but they also suggest there is a small pocket of the population who haven’t changed. People who already own guns are buying more of them. Australian civilians own more than 3.5 million registered firearms; an average of four for each licensed gun owner.

The College also calls for:

  • the banning and prohibition of importation by individuals of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns;
  • continued compulsory training, education and licensing measures;
  • a mechanism for regular review of firearms control laws.

“Registration makes the owner personally responsibility for every gun they own. It creates stronger incentives for licensed firearms owners to store their weapons correctly, report thefts and not lend or sell their weapons to unlicensed people,” Crozier said.

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