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Stolen weapons arm city's criminal gangs (Sydney, AUS)

Thu, January 17, 2013 5:40 PM | Anonymous

Stolen weapons arm city's criminal gangs

Part of a haul of guns that were seized in March 2012 / Pic: Police Media Source: The Daily Telegraph

MORE than 10 guns a week have been stolen from NSW homes over the past six months, prompting fears they fell into the hands of criminals.

Police figures show 295 weapons were stolen from July to December last year.

While police say many were expensive long-arms and possibly stolen to be collectors' items, gun control advocates said they would have been sold on the black market.

"Research shows that only a small percentage of guns stolen are ever recovered," Gun Control Australia spokeswoman Sam Lee said.

"They certainly don't go on to collectors' shelves.

"The main source for guns falling into the criminal market is theft from homes."

The figures emerged as Sydney remains in the grip of a gun crime crisis amid a bloody bikie gang war.

And with no answers in sight from the Premier or Police Minister, it can be revealed that sweeping powers to crack down on violent bikies were offered by the Prime Minister in October but Barry O'Farrell didn't even bother to write back.

Julia Gillard wrote to Mr O'Farrell on October 20 and told him uniform anti-bikie gang laws could be introduced if the states referred their powers to the Commonwealth.

But Mr O'Farrell, who has accused Ms Gillard of dragging her heels on introducing uniform national laws, is yet to respond more than three months later.

Yesterday Police Minister Mike Gallacher refused at a press conference to comment on gun crime, preferring to launch a watered-down policy for a drunk tank that can hold only 10 people.

What is the best way to control gun crime and regulate gun ownership?

However, last night he said his "sobering-up centres" would not detract from shooting investigations.

While shootings across Sydney continue - a Hells Angels bikie was murdered on Tuesday - police believe guns stolen from homes, mostly rifles and shotguns, are not destined for criminal gangs.

Their weapons of choice are handguns or semi-automatics.

Police also point to the fact that from July to December they seized more than 6500 illegal weapons.

Nearly all the firearms stolen from homes over the past six months were from rural areas.

"Some are very expensive and may be sought after by people who want them for their private collections," Detective Superintendent Ken Finch, head of the NSW Firearms and Organised Crime Squad, said.

But in many of the robberies entire gun safes are being removed from the premises.

"The incidence of thefts is relatively stable but there is an increase in multiple weapons being stolen," Supt Finch said.

Despite this he did not believe organised crime gangs were involved and said that in many cases the guns were stolen by opportunistic locals.

"In rural communities it is pretty well known who is a gun collector or if someone has a lot of weapons," he said.

"Also, people in these communities tend to know if properties are weekenders or if people are away for long periods of time."

In May last year The Daily Telegraph reported 63 legal guns were stolen in 16 days, raising fears the NSW Firearms Registry was compromised. Supt Finch said those fears were unfounded and he was confident information on the registry was secure.

"But it would be na adive not to think some of the them are linked," he said. "Similarly there have been a number of arrests where the alleged offenders have been locals."

Supt Finch said that of equal concern to stolen firearms "has been the increased incidence of illegal importation of handguns, predominantly from the USA and Europe".

"Several criminal syndicates have been detected and arrested for illegally importing handguns," he said.

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