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Australians deserve the full picture on gun ownership

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02.04.2019

When I was tiny I wore a rabbit-skin coat and ate rabbit two or three times a week, courtesy of my father and his 22-calibre hunting rifle.

My parents had gone back to the land in that 1970s idealistic way and we lived in a log cabin - hand built by Dad - surrounded by scrubby bushland in the hinterland of the NSW south coast.

Replay

Later when my parents went their separate ways and moved back to the city, Dad’s gun came with him.

The wooden rifle sat propped against the wall, unloaded, in his bedroom in his Balmain terrace house until 1996 when the Port Arthur massacre prompted a national rethink on guns.

From the vantage of 2019 it feels like a story from a foreign country but guns were much more everyday items in Australia just a few decades ago.

Former prime minister John Howard changed that with his political leadership backed by unstinting bipartisan political support and the Australian public.

Illustration: Andrew DysonCredit:

But there is one thing that Howard promised that has never come to pass. He came back from the Port Arthur funerals vowing to set up a national firearms registry and this important work remains largely undone.

Reliable statistics underpin good public policy but when it comes to guns, our knowledge is patchy and updated sporadically.

Instead of reliable and regular official statistics, we get piecemeal research projects from private sources.

Left-leaning think tank, the Australia Institute, made headlines earlier this month when it produced a report claiming Australia now has more firearms than in 1997, even accounting for population growth.

John Howard wears a........

© Brisbane Times