Lipson: She is a Senator from WA who is also on a committee that is looking into the incidence of gun violence and how this country can reduce that.
Linda Reynolds, thank you for your time. If I could take you to our current gun laws. Are they adequate?
Reynolds: Well David the first thing I’d say is that clearly after the tragic incidence at Martin Place this week, there is a very comprehensive review of all circumstances from the Commonwealth and State levels, and clearly firearms and access to firearms and the firearms registers themselves are going to be very important components of those reviews.
Lipson: So as for the legal versus the illegal guns on the streets, it seems that Monis obtained this gun illegally because we’ve discovered that he did not own a licence, never owned a licence apparently to actually buy a gun. So how significant is the problem of illegal firearms on the streets in Australia?
Reynolds: That is a very good question and that’s really the question that is at the heart of the Senate inquiry that is underway at the moment that is still taking evidence and is due to report in March. Look the first thing I’d say, is sometimes there is a bit of misapprehension in Australia is we have no automatic right to bear arms in Australia and we never have under our constitution and self-protection is not a legitimate right to own weapons. So it’s for sporting shooters and for farmers who have rifles and weapons as their tools of trade. So that’s the first point
Lipson: And how many are there just before you go on?
Reynolds: There’s around about 730000 registered gun owners in Australia and there’s about 2.75 million registered firearms, mostly long arms. So in Australia, we already have a very robust system for not only registering firearms but also for registering and licensing firearm owners.
Lipson: Okay so they’re the legal ones, what about the illegal firearms. How many are there estimated to be?
Reynolds: The evidence that we’ve heard to date in the inquiry is that there are at least two hundred thousand if not more illegal firearms in Australia and most of those again are long armed weapons which were banned after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
Lipson: So how do we get them off the streets?
Reynolds: Well David that’s a very good question and it’s something that the committee is turning its mind turn and I’m sure will make some recommendations. So the first thing I’d say is that there is absolutely no evidence that the crime and indeed the incidence in Martin Place the week was the result of a legal gun owner or a gun owned by a registered firearm owner that was stolen. The problem really is in the black market and there are a number of things. Currently the federal government has got legislation before the senate to make it a mandatory 5 year sentence for illegal trafficking of firearms. Now I think that’s a very important measure one to show that we are serious and that people who do traffic in illegal weapons will be treated very seriously
Lipson: And do we need another gun buyback scheme? Would that help?
Reynolds: Well it’s one of the measures that certainly the inquiries that are now underway initiated at the commonwealth and state government levels I’m certain will be having a look at the issues particularly in relation to firearms. I think there are issues that have certainly come out in the inquiry in relation to inconsistent registries. that have come out in relation to inconsistent registries across the states because it is the states and territories who are responsible for registering firearms so there are certainly some consistency issues that will need to be addressed. Another buyback may be an option but again I think the inquiry will have a look at that further and I am confident that that will be looked at further by the commonwealth and NSW government
Lipson: What about the suggestion today by Senator David Leyonhjelm that had we had less strict gun laws, that is had members of the general public been able to carry firearms, this would not have been able to happen in martin place. What is your view of that?
Reynolds: Well as I said in Australia there is never been a right to bear arms and I do not think that most Australians would want that to change. So in this case I do disagree with senator Leyonhjelm. I think that the solutions are going to lie in reducing the black market and making it even harder for criminals and terrorists to get a hold of weapons and not to general society.
Lipson: And just finally the misinformation that was given to the prime minister yesterday that led to him actually suggesting that Monis had a gun license. That according to the AFP resulted in a mistake in manual entry in the national police reference system which resulted in the AFP misinforming the pm. Does that highlight at the very least imperfections in the system of registry and the system’s ability to actually deliver accurate and timely information when needed.
Reynolds: Well David that is a good point and its certainly consistent with some of the evidence that we’ve had in the inquiry that there are certainly some inconsistencies and some very antiquated methods of registration and keeping records of firearms across the country so without question I think that is something that is going to have to be addressed in the reviews and I’m sure our committee will also be having a look at that further but David, there is one other point in relation to that that I think is important and that is the amount of information that the media require and the public are looking for when these incidents are unfolding and we’ve seen it in the past where information is sought and sometimes provided too quickly while these incidents are occurring so I think also that’s something that we have to look at and perhaps even the media has a look at in the validity of some of this information that is provided in the middle of operations
Lipson: Linda Reynolds thank you so much for your time today,
Reynolds: Thank you very much David, pleasure