Rubbery figures in gun theft statistics have been called into question by SSAA Victoria prompting an investigation by Victorian agriculture newspaper, The Weekly Times, which has provided some long overdue balance to the issue.
In its story published on April 18, The Weekly Times reported Crime Statistics Australia statistics showing 739 firearm thefts in Victoria in 2016-17, which was dramatically up from 343 in 2009-10.
Many news outlets gave Gun Control Australia chairman Samantha Lee a free kick to use the statistics to call for tighter gun storage laws. As usual, the facts were twisted to suit her anti-gun agenda with 43 air rifles, five imitation guns and 145 “other firearms” that are neither pistols, revolvers, shotguns nor rifles included in the figures.
However, rather than take Lee’s word for it, The Weekly Times checked with SSAA Victoria CEO, Jack Wegman, who pointed out that the basis for the CSA figures was questionable and suspected the dramatic increase in the figures was due to the “other firearms” which could include any type of “gun” such as glue, grease and nail guns.
“How can firearm thefts just double from one year to the next and stay that way?” Mr Wegman said. “Obviously we want to know if the definition of a firearm was changed back then.”
CSA and Victoria Police were unable to provide a breakdown of the figures, which would explain the massive jump, prompting an editorial by the story’s author, Peter Hunt, in the same edition.
“There’s something rotten in the state of Victorian and NSW police crime statistics,” Mr Hunt wrote.
“We all want to see strong, constructive gun regulations in place to protect our community. But let’s make sure our decisions are based on solid data, so we give responsible firearm owners a fair go,” he concluded, echoing SSAA Victoria’s motto.
Mr Wegman said he was keen to see a follow-up after Mr Hunt reported he had been promised clarification of the anomaly.
“The reporting of this issue has lacked balance or reason until The Weekly Times story and we’re hoping they get to the bottom of it,” he said.
“More importantly we’re glad that at least one publication is seeking both sides of the argument rather than just going after sensational headlines.
“For too long, mainstream media has given voice to the hysterical anti-gun lobby without seeking balance or facts and this is influencing government policy.
“Australia has some of the tightest regulation on firearms in the world and law-abiding firearms owners are tired of being made the scapegoat and having their rights eroded away.
“There needs to be a common-sense review of the current laws to see what is still relevant or effective, but the anti-gun lobby is doing its best to make that impossible and most of the media is falling for it.
“Groups such as GCA are duping the media into whipping up a frenzy of anti-gun sentiment by feeding it lies and exaggeration which go reported without investigation. How can we hope to have reasoned and sensible discussion on this issue amid this falsely manufactured public sentiment which then dictates government policy?
“This is why we congratulate The Weekly Times for giving responsible people a fair go and setting a standard in balanced reporting that we hope will filter through to other Australian media outlets.”