Following SSAA NSW’s participation in the Q&A episode that aired on Monday 16 October, The Conversation FactCheck looked at the question ‘Did Government buybacks reduce the number of gun deaths in Australia?

SSAA NSW had the opportunity to respond and provide further comment to substantiate our assertion that the government funded buy-backs in 1996 and 2003 had no effect in reducing the number of firearms deaths (see Response #1 below).

The FactCheck response can be found here.  Despite this not being a truly balanced response, it does acknowledge that:

  • firearm death rates began falling before the reforms and buybacks took place,
  • it’s hard to tell what effect the gun buyback schemes and tighter restrictions on firearms had on this decline, and
  • some studies found the NFA overall had modest effects on the number of gun related deaths, other studies found that the gun buybacks and stricter regulations led to a decline in these, while other studies were inconclusive.

One of the additional follow-up questions we received was to substantiate our claim that the cost of the buy backs was $700 million dollars, which was sourced from SSAA National's Journalists Guide.  SSAA NSW provided a breakdown totalling $686.6 million (see Response #2 below).  However, FactCheck did not acknowledge this information and instead referenced a ‘parliamentary source’ which showed the cost at just under $628 million.

Nevertheless, the positive out of this whole exercise has been the opportunity to get the message out there and particularly to the non-shooting sectors of the community.
Following Q&A we have received commentary from the non-shooting community on the glaring bias of the media and the reluctance to address the question regarding criminals and illegal firearms.
If we can get the wider community questioning the fairness of media coverage of legal firearms ownership, that is a good outcome.

Our complete responses #1 and #2 to FactCheck are shown below.

SSAA NSW Response #1 to ABC FactCheck

“The NFA did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates.”
Direct quote from the University of Melbourne’s independent study by Lee and Suardi, 2008.

Homicides using a firearm were on the decline well before the anomaly of the Port Arthur murders. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Firearm injuries and deaths report 2017 clearly shows that firearm-related deaths began steadily decreasing from 1991, five years before the NFA was introduced (see graph).

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that the crude firearm death rate declined from 4.8 deaths per 100,000 in 1980 to 2.6 in 1995 – again, before the NFA.
ABS stats also show that firearm deaths (including suicide) fell by 46% during the 16 year period (1980 to 1995) without any drastic changes to firearm laws.
Refer to the ABS - Firearms Deaths Australia 1980 to 1995.

Public safety is almost always threatened by the unlicensed person with the unregistered firearm in the rare case where firearms are involved, with more than 93% of firearms used in homicides in 2006-07 found to be unlicensed and unregistered.
Source: Dearden, J & Jones, W 2008, ‘Homicide in Australia: 2006-07. National Homicide Monitoring Program annual report’, Australian Institute of Criminology.

By contrast, the New Zealand experience shows similar statistical trends with a very different regulatory environment. This demonstrates the SSAA’s worst fears: that the NFA was a costly failure that saw millions of tax-payers money spent on gun buy-backs with no public safety benefit.
Source: The Library of Congress. 2015. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: New Zealand.

Illegal importation of firearms
In excess of 2.2 million Twenty Foot Equivalent Units (TEU, a 20 foot container) are imported into Australia annually (as at July 2011). In 2015, 2.5 million TEU were imported.  

  • Approximately 70% of these are imported into Melbourne and Sydney - the busiest international container ports.
  • Customs and Border Protection currently scan approximately 101,500 TEU and physically examine 14,000 TEU each year.
  • This mean about 0.22% of these containers are inspected, making it very easy for the illegal, unchecked importation of firearms.


Information for this response was provided by SSAA National’s SSAA-LA.

SSAA NSW Response #2 to FactCheck

In summary the costs are attributed as follows:

  • 1996 National Firearms Program
    • $398 million compensation for purchase of semi-automatic weapons
      • $304 million to owners
      • $94 million to dealers (and wholesalers)
    • $57 million to states and territories for administration
    • $4 million for national public education program
    • $1.5 million for development of accredited firearms training program
    • $400K for upgrade the National Exchange of Police Information (NEPI) system
    • $24.1 million unaccounted for additional expenditure
    • TOTAL COST $485 million
  • 2003 National Handgun Buyback
    • $96.6 million paid in compensation to owners
    • $70 million reimbursed to the states and territories for administration
    • $35 million paid by states and territories for administration in accordance with the 2/3 to 1/3 agreement with the Commonwealth
    • TOTAL COST $201.6 million

 This is substantiated using the following sources:

The ANAO report on the 1996 buy-back states:

    • The Government budgeted $500 million which was raised through a 0.2% increase in the Medicare levy (para 3.6 pg 21)
    • Total cost of compensation to owners was approximately $304 million (para 3.7 pg 21)
    • Amount of compensation to dealers (and wholesalers) were not certain, but 480 claims had been submitted (para 3.6 pg 21)
    • Approximately $57 million was paid to states and territories to cover establishing, promoting and operating the buy-back (para 3.7 pg 21)
    • $4 million was allocated for a national public education campaign (para 3.8 pg21)
    • $1.5 million was allocated for development of an accredited firearms training program (para 3.8 pg 21)
    • $400K was allocated to upgrade the National Exchange of Police Information (NEPI) system (para 3.8 pg 21)

Under the section headed ‘Budget 2003 2004 The Attorney-General’s Portfolio: Handgun buyback’ reference is made to the cost of funding the 3003 handgun buyback:

    • By the $15 million left over from the 1996 buyback (which indicates the 1996 buyback cost $485 million out of the budgeted $500 million),
    • Then on a 2/3 to 1/3 basis between the Commonwealth and states and territories, with the indicative cost for the Commonwealth being $69 million.

Under the section headed Under ‘Government expenditure’ the costs for both buy-backs are shown as:

    • 1996 National Firearms Program:
      • $398 million compensation for purchase of semi-automatic weapons
      • $63 million for administering the program including
        • $56.6 million for states and territories
    • 2003 National Handgun Buyback:
      • $96.6 million paid in compensation
      • $70 million reimbursed to the states and territories for administration


SSAA NSW participated in the Q&A program which aired on the ABC Monday night.  The anti-gun bias of the host Tony Jones was evident and panel member Tim Fischer seemed affronted when the validity of the Howard gun laws was questioned by SSAA NSW.  Senator Bridget Mackenzie, a long-time supporter of firearms owners, was the lone pro-firearm panel member.

Prior to the show, all audience members are asked to submit questions, producers then select a limited number of questions (6 -10) and the host decides if the person posing the question has any right of reply during discussions.  Given the agenda and that Tim Fischer was on the panel, the context and content of our question was intended to be controversial; our aim was to have our question selected.

SSAA NSW’s objective was to get our messages across in a public forum watched by many viewers within the community.  On this occasion our messages were:

  • The problem is illegal firearms and criminal use of these in the commission of gun crime, and
  • The need to look at the bureaucratic overregulation of law-abiding firearms owners.

We achieved this, despite the panel avoiding our question and diverting the conversation to emotive issues including American gun culture, gun massacres and threat of loosening Howard’s firearms laws.


There’s current speculation about the introduction of a general hunting licence for all feral animals on private land.

SSAA NSW strongly opposes the introduction of more red tape and yet more burden on recreational hunters.

In fact, we are on public record supporting the removal of the G Licence, which is required to hunt deer on private property.  Our members were frustrated and dissatisfied with the introduction of this as part of the Game and Feral Animal Control Act 2002.  The Act forced them to pay an additional fee for a licence that required no training, no membership of an AHO and was therefore seen as simply revenue raising by the then Game Council.

SSAA NSW supports the retention of the R-Licence model which has been successfully used to manage pest animals in declared state forests and crown land throughout NSW for many years.  We commend the education initiatives of the DPI Game Licensing Unit (GLU).  SSAA NSW is an Approved Hunting Organisation (AHO), a Hunter LEAP Provider and has long been an advocate for this model and the GLU.

When the concept of the ‘Game Council’ was originally introduced in the late 90s, the proposed licensing system required that all hunters of feral and game animals be licensed with the fees being used to fund conservations projects.  SSAA NSW and a number of other hunting organisations strongly opposed this at the time, and the licensing system was modified.

As the biggest hunting organisation in the State with more than 58,000 members, SSAA NSW will continue to oppose further imposition of red tape and unnecessary restrictions on recreational hunters and all licensed firearms owners.


The NSW Greens’ latest call for further restrictions in the form of limits on firearms ownership is another attempt to demonise the state’s 220,000 licensed law-abiding firearm owners.

Recent articles published by ABC News and the Illawarra Mercury highlight the Greens bias agenda and willing disregard for facts; they fail to acknowledge that every single legal firearm owned by people who have successfully completed the licensing process is registered; has been pre-approved for ownership by the NSW Police Firearms Registry; and is inspected by police to ensure it is stored securely and in accordance with strict legislative requirements.

Criticising how many guns law-abiding licensed firearm owners currently own is hysterical scaremongering and does not distinguish between the different purposes of use available under the licensing system. People can own a number of firearms for a number of reasons including to participate in a wide variety of shooting competitions; for collection and historical keeping purposes; for businesses or private dealerships; or for security licences. Furthermore, some of the large collection of firearms would consist of paintball guns and air rifles.

The reported comments made by a police officer are not only disappointing but clearly ill-informed.  The current model where one central police body objectively regulates the ownership of firearms eliminates the potential subjective application of the law by individuals who may or may not have personal agendas regarding licensed law-abiding firearms owners.

The release of firearms data by the Greens is a clear breach of privacy as firearms registry data, like any individual’s personal information, needs to be protected for security reasons. This information is now in the hands of criminals who can now target smaller localities and easily identify the homes of licensed law-abiding firearm owners who legally own and store firearms.

The Greens have handed a shopping list to criminals and for what reason?  They will have you believe that the motive is public safety; however this is simply a hypocritical and desperate attempt to prove their baseless theories and push their anti-gun agenda without any concern that their actions are risking the safety of licensed law-abiding firearms owners; legitimate members of the community that deserve protection not persecution.

SSAA NSW challenges the Greens to focus on solving the real problem; criminals and their use of illegal firearms to commit gun crime.

So, David Shoebridge when you’re ready to get serious follow our lead; SSAA NSW is working with the Government and regulators to achieve fair and workable firearms laws that are not onerous on licensed law-abiding firearms owners, but that are truly effective in addressing the real problem of illegal firearms and gun crime.

SSAA NSW BY-ELECTION CAMPAIGN – ‘Vote for pro-firearms pro-SSAA candidates’

For the upcoming by-elections SSAA NSW will be providing our support to pro-firearms and pro-SSAA candidates by way of a print and online media campaign.

Voters with a firearms licence need to be aware of the views of potential candidates so they can make a fully informed decision when casting their vote at the ballot box.

As the State’s largest shooting body, our role is to inform our 58,000 members and other law-abiding licensed firearms owners on relevant matters that impact upon their chosen activity; this is especially important when it comes to elections.

SSAA NSW sought the views of candidates on relevant issues; all candidates that were registered by our publishing deadline were given an opportunity to answer 10 questions which covered the areas of:

  • firearms ownership and use,
  • SSAA NSW and its activities,
  • shooting ranges,
  • recreational hunting, and
  • evidenced based firearms laws. 

Read the full questionnaire and the candidate’s responses here.

SSAA NSW will be publishing the responses (as well as non-responses) from candidates via our online and social media platforms to inform members and the wider community of law-abiding licensed firearms owners.

The responses have formed the basis of an advert that will be published along with an editorial on Wednesday and Thursday this week in The Land, Cootamundra Herald, The Area News (Griffith) and The Rural Weekly which will give us coverage of both electorates.

Download SSAA NSW Standard Branch Constitution here

NSW Shooter now online