More than 70 firearms have been stolen in burglaries in one rural WA district in the past year, say police.
A three-week operation in WA’s Great Southern demonstrated many gun owners in the region were not securing their firearms in approved gun cabinets, as required under the Firearms Act, a police spokesman said.
"Operation Celebrity, which involved random inspections by police over three weeks of more than 400 gun cabinets resulted in the seizure of 46 firearms that were not being adequately secured, while a further 107 guns were voluntarily handed in by members of the community," the spokesman said.
More than 10,000 of the Great Southern’s 16,483 licensed firearm holders received letters warning of the random checks.
Regional WA Commander Murray Smalpage said the operation’s findings were concerning, because unsecured firearms were not only a safety risk, but vulnerable to theft during burglaries.
“In the past year, there were 35 burglaries in the district which resulted in the theft of 73 firearms, including high-powered rifles and handguns. Essentially, those firearms fell directly into the hands of criminals because owners either didn’t have cabinets or didn’t use them properly as the law requires them to do,” Mr Smalpage said.
Ten of the 73 stolen firearms had been recovered so far by Police.
“Criminals actively seek out firearms to use in drug-dealing, violent offences and organised crime activities, so licensed firearm holders who do not comply with the law are frankly leaving the whole community vulnerable,” Mr Smalpage said.
Mr Smalpage said illicit firearms were a priority issue for WA Police and it was likely Operation Celebrity would be replicated in other parts of the State in future.
“Gun owners who meet their responsibilities have nothing to be concerned about, but there will be prosecutions from the Great Southern operation and licensed firearm holders need to keep in mind there is a fine of up to $2000 for a first offence and potential imprisonment for subsequent offences.”
“This has been a very successful and diligent operation by police in the Great Southern and their work has resulted in the community being safer, which deserves recognition,” Mr Smalpage said.
A permanent amnesty remains in place for unlicensed firearms.