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'Rogue Gun Dealers' Operating In Australia

Australia has some of the tightest gun control and border security laws in the world but there are still thousands of weapons the Australian Government can't trace.

In December, a joint operation involving the Australian Border Force (ABF) and New South Wales Police seized an arsenal near Newcastle, including a grenade launcher and a heavy machine gun.

Meanwhile, in western Queensland, a haul of 120 firearms including an anti-tank rifle was seized earlier this year.

Australia's border security is capturing a significant amount of illicit firearms and parts.

More than 2,000 were confiscated in their most recent survey period between 2017 and 2018, according to the Department of Home Affairs.

A Grenade Launcher seized in Charlestown (Image Supplied Police NSW)

"The firearms black market, they know what's available there is always a demand and where there is a demand there is a supply," Alexey Muraviev, an associate professor of national security at Curtin University, told Ten Daily.

However, there may be a much larger domestic issue they have less control of.

According to Gun Control Australia, almost 27,000 firearms were stolen between 2007 and 2017.

Meanwhile, there are about 260,000 illegal weapons on the black market according to the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) in its most recent update.

Officers stand over the firearms seized in Charlestown (Image AAP)

While some of the weapons are so old they wouldn't look out of place in a war movie, the biggest dangers presented by illegal guns are of a slightly lower calibre.

"Crime guns tend to be the most desirable, and they are handguns, or sawn-off rifles and shotguns because they're concealable... they're the criminal firearm of choice," Professor Philip Alpers, the founder of gunpolicy.org and associate professor at Sydney University told 10 daily.

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So where do these guns come from?

Their main source appears to be from 'rogue gun dealers' who make it their business to supply weapons that are difficult for law enforcement to trace.

An estimated 5,000 handguns have been brought into the illicit marketplace through legal loopholes surrounding the legislation of the deactivation of guns according to ACIC.

Handgun owners are at risk of theft (Image AAP)

"There are many, many instances of a gun dealer getting into financial trouble and deciding to sell all his handguns to criminals and then report them as stolen," said Alpers.

This is where once again the issue of theft comes into play.

"That's a constant worry for handgun owners is that they will be targeted by thieves," he added.

The most dangerous targets for these kinds of thefts are weapons that are part of the 'grey market' according to ACIC.

A machine gun and ammunition seized by police. (Image AAP)

The grey market is made up of weapons held by people illegally, but are unlikely to use them to harm anyone.

These weapons are mostly those held onto by people during the 1996-97 gun buyback brought on after the Port Arthur massacre.

If these weapons are stolen, because they aren't listed it's much harder for the government to track them.

ACIC's most recent report on illicit firearms in Australia said a national program encouraging the registration and/or surrender of unregistered firearms could significantly reduce the number of firearms available to the illicit market.

Feature Image AAP

Contact the author: mgay@networkten.com.au