Enhancing the national picture of illicit firearms

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission today released its first unclassified assessment of the illicit firearms market.

Minister for Justice, the Hon. Michael Keenan MP, launched the Illicit Firearms in Australia report alongside Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Mr Chris Dawson, in Melbourne.

“The use and movement of illicit firearms by criminals is a serious national problem. It impacts every Australian jurisdiction and affects the safety of our community,” said Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Chris Dawson.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission continues to conservatively estimate that there are more than 250,000 long-arms and 10,000 handguns in the illicit market.

“One illegal firearm in our community is one too many,” Mr Dawson said.

“The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission supports any efforts, including both local and national firearm amnesties, which reduce the number of, and access to, illegal or unregistered firearms in the community.”

Firearms and organised crime are inextricably linked, with strategies needed to address both the illicit supply chain for firearms and the underlying activities of organised crime groups. Criminals use firearms to protect their illicit interests, such as drugs, or commit acts of violence and intimidation.

The report shows that firearms are entering the illicit market through a range of methods. In most instances, the method for how the firearm becomes illicit can be categorised as either historical or contemporary.

Historical methods of diversion include the grey market and legislative loopholes. Contemporary methods include theft, illicit assembly, illicit manufacture and illegal importation.

The report’s findings include:

  • An increasing number of organised crime groups, including outlaw motorcycle gangs are trafficking illicit firearms.
  • A conservative estimate of more than 250,000 long-arms and 10,000 handguns in the illicit market, although it could be much higher.
  • Firearm enthusiasts with no previous criminal involvement influence demand by sourcing rare items from the illicit market.
  • The illegal movement of firearms is compounded by the high degree of anonymity the online environment offers firearm vendors and purchasers.
  • Between 2004 and 2016 the ACIC received 6,874 requests for domestic firearms traces from its Australian law enforcement partners. The greatest proportion of illicit firearms traced was identified as coming from the grey market.
  • To date, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission holds more than 1.8 million historical records of firearms transactions. These records ensure that the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s firearm trace capability is the most comprehensive program available to law enforcement in Australia.

“New trends in methods of acquiring and moving illicit firearms continue to evolve. The collection of national intelligence on illicit firearms with our partners assists all law enforcement agencies and governments to effectively discover, understand and respond to criminal activities where firearms are used,” Mr Dawson said.

The Illicit Firearms in Australia report is the unclassified version of updated classified intelligence products provided to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s law enforcement partners in 2015.

The report details the current understanding of the nature and extent of illicit firearms in the Australian community.

The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission was established 1 July 2016 following a merge between the Australian Crime Commission and CrimTrac. The agency also undertakes criminological research and communicates the findings through the Australian Institute of Criminology. Bringing these three agencies together will continue to enhance the national picture of firearms in the Australian community.

The full Illicit Firearms in Australia report is available on the ACIC website.