Gun s journey to killer weapon
Mario Perrin was shot dead at his Dianella home in October 2010.

Perth bikie Mario Perrin was still a teenager when the gun that almost two decades later would be used to kill him first fell into criminal hands.

Its journey on to the illicit firearms market started with a burglary on an Adelaide gun shop in January 1991. The thieves were well organised, cutting a hole in the roof in the middle of the night and helping themselves to two semiautomatic rifles.

One of those guns was a 0.22 calibre Stirling model 20 - the sort of weapon preferred by farmers as opposed to underworld types.

By the time Mr Perrin found himself staring down its barrel, that gun had morphed into a very different-looking weapon. The barrel had been sawn off, the butt cut down to form a pistol grip and the serial numbers filed away.

In its modified guise it would have been a fairly clumsy weapon but much easier to conceal and still capable of firing up to 15 rounds in rapid succession.

Police say they do not know how many different owners it had in the 20 years leading up to Mr Perrin's death or what other crimes it may have been used in before it finally wound up in the hands of a 33-year-old Perth-based drug dealer.

That dealer - who cannot be named for legal reasons - was looking to collect on a $700 drug debt when he confronted Mr Perrin at his Dianella home in October 2010.

The dealer had been expecting trouble as Mr Perrin had dared him to come and get the money and had called him a "dog" in an angry text message exchange the day before.

The dealer claimed he had planned to threaten Mr Perrin with the gun, not kill him, but the shooting started almost as soon as the dealer reached the father of two's front door. Three shots were fired - the fatal round hitting Mr Perrin in the temple.

Police believe the story behind the gun's transition from a legal to illegal firearm is typical of how most end up in criminal hands.

The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates about 1500 guns are stolen each year, the majority of which are never recovered. Nearly 90 per cent are taken as a result of burglaries and 25 per cent of those weapons are not properly secured by their owners.

The campaign - starting Monday - to try to get some of the guns back into safe hands will go a small way towards reducing that number and possibly even saving lives.

The 34 recovered as part of the same operation last year may not sound a lot but every one was a potential murder weapon.

And with so many legal guns stolen each year, it is clear that an even bigger impact could be achieved by improvements to security.

The West Australian

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