NSW cops admit 'role to play' on gun theft

Jamie McKinnell

NSW's top cop says both police and gun owners have a responsibility to stop weapons being stolen after figures showed a near-doubling in firearms theft over the past decade.

Lobby group Gun Control Australia this week released data obtained under freedom of information laws showing some 1700 guns were stolen in 2007/08 and that jumped to almost 3300 in 2016/17.

During the decade the total number of guns stolen Australia-wide was nearly 27,000.

In NSW, gun theft increased from 410 in the 2007/08 financial year to 761 in 2016/17.

Commissioner Mick Fuller says NSW and Australia had some of the strongest gun laws in the world.

"What's key is that we get around every year and audit the security of these firearms to make sure that they are being stored as per legislative requirements," he told AAP in Sydney on Tuesday.

"We have a role to play and clearly the gun owners also have a role to play in this. It's certainly not in anyone's interest that guns get into the black market or the organised crime market."

GCA says the data reflects only a proportion of the true number due to under-reporting and the lack of a national database system to collate and trace stolen firearms.

GCA chair Samantha Lee says the illicit gun market is being fuelled by weapons stolen from legal owners.

"Gun theft is a product of inadequate storage requirements," she said in a statement.

"Poor storage will not only see an increase in gun theft but could potentially mean an increase in accidental injury or death and guns being used more widely in suicides."

The Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia believes there is a need to revisit the "outdated" paper-based systems that track guns across states and territories.

"A national, integrated digital system that shows in real time transactions relevant to firearms licensing, permitting and ownership is more than 20 years overdue," chief executive Rod Drew said in a statement.

The group has raised the matter with federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

A report on organised crime released by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission in 2017 estimated there are more than 250,000 long-arm guns and 10,000 handguns in the illicit market.

A three-month amnesty in 2017 resulted in nearly 10,000 firearms and gun-related items being surrendered in NSW.