Recent revelations about the gun lobby’s role in Australian politics raise profound concerns for community groups concerned about family violence.
The ABC Four Corners program drew attention to the fact that Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA) funded a major publicity campaign, “Flick ’em”, to urge Queensland voters not to vote for either of the major parties (LNP or Labor).
The ABC reported that there was no branding to suggest this massive publicity campaign was funded by the gun lobby. It reportedly used an anti-major party agenda to bring in independents who would loosen the gun laws in Australia. Major armament dealers allegedly helped fund the campaign as members of SIFA.
Experts say that they are galvanised by fears that loosening Australia’s gun laws will directly impact the rate of domestic violence murders.
The World Health Organisation reveals that the US has the Western world’s worst homicide rate – 5.3 persons per 100,000 compared with just over one person per 100,000 in Australia. Many people experience these tragedies directly through the loss of neighbours, friends or family.
Experts and governments agree that there is a domestic violence problem in Australia. Despite increased resources addressing the prevention and response to domestic violence, there hasn’t been a decrease in the numbers of women (and some men) experiencing abuse, violence and control.
In Western Australia, the Margaret River tragedy, in which grandfather Peter Miles shot dead his wife, daughter and four grandchildren and which was Australia’s worst mass shooting since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, led politicians to establish the Parliamentary Friends of Gun Control in Canberra.
Federal Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh, who will co-chair the group along with NSW Liberal MP John Alexander, said it was more important than ever to ensure Australians remained free from the danger of incessant gun violence that persisted in other countries.
“The National Firearms Agreement emerged from a terrible tragedy, but saved around 200 lives each year in averted homicides and suicides,” Mr Leigh said.
“There are worrying signs around the country that the Agreement could now be watered down and they come amid a number of high profile shootings, including the tragic deaths of seven members of a Western Australian family earlier this year.”
Crossbench senators Fraser Anning and David Leyonhjelm have both publicly advocated for the relaxing of gun laws, with senator Leyonhjelm having pushed for rights of gun owners in Australia since he was elected in 2013.
Meanwhile a new report by Gun Control Australia (GCA) found more than 50 breaches of the code by states and territories. Each jurisdiction had walked away in some way, the report found.
New South Wales now allows the use of silencers, a breach of the 1996 code. It also allows semi-automatic weapons for use by people whose occupation is not pest control, and has no legal limit on the amount of ammunition that can be purchased.
In Queensland gun owners can be licensed for 10 years, double the time limit in the national agreement, and a licence is not mandatory for the purchase of ammunition.
The organisation’s chair, Sam Lee, said the referendum was needed after “years of political pressure” by the gun lobby.
“The national firearms agreement is haemorrhaging because the states and territories are legislating it away in return for gun lobby votes and funding,” Lee said.
Last week, former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer told Guardian Australia he was “deeply concerned” about the emergence of an NRA-style gun lobby in Australia.
His comments came after it was revealed the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, was considering establishing a committee to allow gun importers to review proposed changes to firearms regulations for “appropriateness and intent”.
Family Violence and Guns in the USA
The risk of death for abused partners is five times greater if guns are present, says Everytown policy and legal director Elizabeth Avore. The group has worked on domestic violence and gun legislation in about two dozen states since 2013.
Firearms were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1990 and 2005.
Domestic violence assaults involving a firearm are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.
Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.
A recent survey of female domestic violence shelter residents in California found that more than one third (36.7%) reported having been threatened or harmed with a firearm. In nearly two thirds (64.5%) of the households that contained a firearm, the intimate partner had used the firearm against the victim, usually threatening to shoot or kill the victim.