Australia

Australians turn in 57,000 guns in national amnesty

The rocket launcher that was recovered in the amnesty Image copyright AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT
Image caption A rocket launcher was one of the weapons recovered in Australia's gun amnesty

Australians turned in more than 57,000 firearms to authorities last year during a national gun amnesty.

The three-month amnesty was the first since Australia's landmark response to a mass shooting in 1996.

It aimed to reduce the number of illicit weapons by allowing people to hand them over without fear of prosecution.

The government said the amnesty deal had made the nation safer.

"Taking these unregistered firearms off the streets means they will not fall into the hands of criminals, who might use them to endanger the lives of innocent Australians," Law Enforcement Minister Angus Taylor said on Thursday.

The amnesty was conducted in response to an influx of illegal arms in the country and the threat of terrorism.

It is illegal to own an unregistered firearm in Australia. Offenders face fines of up to A$280,000 (£172,000;$225,000) and up to 14 years in jail.

Among the surrendered items were almost 2,500 automatic weapons, 2,900 handguns and a rocket launcher believed to have been found in a rubbish dump.

About a third of the weapons were destroyed, with the others registered or returned for sale.

Police estimate there is a local "grey market" of up to 260,000 illicit guns, some of which have been in organised crime as well as recent terror incidents.

Authorities have cited the example of Man Haron Monis, the perpetrator of a Sydney cafe siege in 2014, who used an unregistered shotgun.

Australia last held a gun amnesty in 1996 and 1997, following the killing of 35 people in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur - the nation's worst mass shooting.

At that time, nearly 650,000 firearms were handed in.

The incident also prompted major reform of gun laws, including a ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons.

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