The Australian Institute of Criminology1 has time and time again found that it is the unlicensed person with an unregistered firearm that is responsible for crimes involving firearms. In almost all cases, the crimes are drug, gang and organised crime related.

Australia has always had strict handgun ownership regulations. Indeed, civilians may only be in the possession of handguns (semi-automatic or not) for club use, if not part of their professional tools of trade such as security guards and veterinarians.

There are about 120,000 registered legal handguns in Australia, of which less than half are semi-automatic; not the “300,000 legal hand machine guns in glove boxes around Australia” that Bob Brown has ignorantly quoted.

Sporting club handgun shooters must have passed vigorous police checks, safety courses and probationary periods, and it can take up to 12 months before they can even own a small-calibre pistol.

Our sportsmen and women use semi-automatic handguns for competition at club, state, national and international levels including the Commonwealth Games. And as the Institute of Criminology has stated, “If you impose greater penalties on handgun owners, it is not going to impact on the persons who are likely to use them in crime”.2

In the past four years, about this time of year and usually towards the end of Federal Parliamentary sitting, Bob Brown calls for a ban of legal semi-automatic handguns – it seems to be in his ‘to-do’ diary. This month, we predicted he would roll out his comments about ‘lots of bullets’ and ‘300,000 machine guns’ and have published an article in this month’s Australian Shooter3 magazine and online that discredits his spurious grasp on legal handgun ownership. The article outlines the exact number of legal handguns, be they one-shot pistols or 10-shot semi-automatics, in Australia.

In addition, we have made available to the media further facts on handgun ownership in our Handgun ownership facts in Australia and Handgun ownership myth busting publications.

For further comment, contact SSAA National spokesperson Tim Bannister4.


  1. 1. Jack Dearden and Warwick Jones, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2008.
  2. 2. Dr Jenny Mouzos, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2002.
  3. 3. The Australian Shooter is this country’s flagship recreational shooting magazine and the official publication of the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia. It has a monthly circulation of more than 111,000 (CAB audited).
  4. 4. Tim Bannister is SSAA National’s Executive Director of Media & Publications and Federal Parliamentary Lobbyist, and sits on the Hon. Brendan O’Connor MP, Minister for Home Affairs, Minister for Justice, Firearms Advisory Council.