Officials in Australia this month kicked off yet another gun surrender drive to get Australians to hand in their unregistered firearms. 

This year’s National Illicit Firearms Campaign comes over a quarter century after Australia held a nationwide gun buyback in 1996. That measure led to severe restrictions on firearms including an outright ban on most semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns. During the enactment of the 1996 law, the government purchased nearly 700,000 guns at a cost of $500 million.

However, according to a 2020 report by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, "conservative" estimates put the numbers of guns that were either not handed in or registered with the government at 260,000. The ACIC at the same time notes that if other estimates are correct, the country may actually have as many as 600,000 unlogged firearms – almost as many as were turned over in 1996. This is roughly the same number noted by the government in 2017 when the first national firearms amnesty in 20 years only netted 50,000 guns, including antiques and museum pieces.

It seems a lot of people just haven't wanted to hand their guns over. In fact, they are buying more. 

Data shows that more than 1.16 million firearms have been imported to the country since the "buyback" commenced, with 816,000 licensed Australians currently holding more than 2.89 million registered firearms, meaning that in very real numbers, the amount of above-board guns in the country have never been higher while at the same time "off the books" firearms continue in widespread circulation.

Still, Australian officials are flooding the airwaves and social media with ads to encourage the community to come forward and hand over their unregistered guns before someone else beats them to the punch and informs the authorities of what may be in the closet or attic of their friend or neighbor's home. 


"If you have an illegal gun, you need to surrender that gun now," said Stella Smith, the director of Crime Stoppers Australia. "Or you risk being reported by someone who has information about you. If you are caught with an illegal gun that you could have surrendered under amnesty conditions, then you could face serious criminal penalties, including imprisonment."

Australians found with an unregistered or otherwise illegal gun face $200,000 in fines and up to 14 years in jail.

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