News Desk

The Australian’s ‘Target on guns’ should be filed under fiction.


Never let the truth get in the way of a good story!

Throughout November and December 2023, the Australian newspaper published a series of articles titled ‘Target on guns’.

Despite SIFA being quoted extensively throughout these news items, most of them contained many inaccurate, biased and fact less statements, which appeared to be an attempt to strike fear and emotive reaction from readers. 

As a result, SIFA filed a formal complaint against The Australian, alleging breaches of the Australian Press Council’s statement of principles.  

Of significant concern to SIFA was The Australian journalists prominently featured three statements attributed to Adjunct Associate Professor Philip Alpers from Sydney University: 

  1. “Virtually every firearm used in crime came from the collection of a licensed gun owner.”
  2. “The only way that a gun can leak into the criminal market is from a lawful gun owner. And because criminals offer the best price, it’s a lot like gravity.”
  3. “Once they’re let loose, guns from law-abiding gun owners cascade downwards to unlawful owners.” 

SIFA contended that these statements, that were presented as part of an in-depth investigation conducted over several months, are factually incorrect and that The Australian had ample time to verify the credibility of the sources and the accuracy of the claims. 

In defence of our case, SIFA pointed to data from the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), which contradicts Alpers’ published assertions.  

The ACIC’s report on Illicit Firearms in Australia 2016 indicates that there is already a pool of around 250,000 illicit long arms and 10,000 illicit handguns in Australia challenging Alpers’ claims regarding the origin of firearms used in crimes. 

Further we highlighted that the ACIC’s National Firearm Trace Program (FTP) also refutes Alpers’ statements that theft from licensed firearms owners is a significant source of firearms in the criminal market, with the FTP finding that theft accounts for just 8.5% of all firearms traced. 

The Australian also failed to provide balance by not highlighting that Australia’s system of firearm registration and the regular “safe keeping” audits conducted by the police make it virtually impossible for lawfully obtained firearms to be diverted to the illegal market without detection.  

SIFA advised the Australian Press Council that this was demonstrated by available data on the rate of licensed gun owners being convicted for failing to produce registered firearms during audits.  

An example of this is the NSW Criminal Courts Statistics Jan 2018 to Dec 2022, on the charge of “Fail to produce registered firearm for inspection on demand – Lawpart 18705” resulted in just nine convictions out of 101 cases over the last five years. 

Despite providing the facts, the Australian Press Council failed to act on our complaint, simply stating that “After careful consideration, the Council Secretariat has decided to not proceed further with your complaint”. 

SIFA is in the process of making a further representation and we will continue to hold those to account who publish biased hit pieces on our essential Australian industry.    

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