Aussie Gun Owners Rise; 3.2 M Guns Privately Held

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | January 14, 2013 2:36 PM EST

Despite tough national controls and a guns buyback program instituted by then Prime Minister John Howard, the number of Australians owning guns have risen and are already actually parallel to the number in circulation prior to the 1996 Port Arthur shooting massacre.

A study made by the University of Sydney School of Public Health showed that while Australians turned in more than 1 million guns in the aftermath of the massacre, more than three million firearms have likewise been imported in the last decade.

"Gradually for the past 10 years, they have been creeping up again," Philip Alpers, adjunct associate professor at the Sydney School of Public Health, said. To date, there are about 3.2 million firearms owned privately by Australians.

"Remember there were several massacres in Australia, Port Arthur wasn't the only one, and during the period that people were thinking about those massacres a total of a million guns were surrendered," he said.

"What's happened since then is that gun imports spiked while people replaced them, and then crashed again for several years and they were way down at lower levels."

"But then gradually for the past 10 years they've been creeping up again and Australia has now replaced that million guns," Professor Alpers said.

Although there has been no single mass shooting in Australia after the Port Arthur massacre where 35 people were killed and 23 wounded by a lone gunman named Martin Bryant, the University of Sydney professor said they can still not deduce if the increasing number of guns will make Australia less safe or otherwise.

"Only time would tell. It may be a problem, it may be a serious one, it may not be too bad, but we have yet to see," he said.

According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, murders with knives have outnumbered the number of gun murders, with the latter steadily declining from the late 1980s.

The April 1996 Port Arthur massacre happened at the Port Arthur prison colony, a popular tourist site in southeastern Tasmania, Australia. The assailant Mr Bryant, who hailed from New Town, pleaded guilty to the crimes. Imprisoned in the Wilfred Lopes Centre, he is now serving 35 life sentences without possibility of parole.

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