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Australians Surrender More Than 50,000 Weapons in First National Gun Amnesty in 20 Years

Anyone found with an unregistered firearm in Australia now faces up to 14 years in prison or a heavy fine

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Salesperson Lauren Ungari checks rifles in a display in a gunshop in Sydney, Australia (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft) (VOA)
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Sydney, October 8, 2017 : Australians have handed in 51,000 weapons during the first national gun amnesty in more than 20 years.

Authorities in Australia believe the three-month gun amnesty that ran through Sept. 30 has made the country safer. By their count, 51,461 firearms were surrendered in Australia’s first no-questions-asked amnesty since a mass shooting in the state of Tasmania in 1996.

A proliferation of illicit weapons and the potential impact on national security prompted the government to urge Australians to hand in their firearms without fear of prosecution. Officials were worried that unwanted military-style rifles, pistols and shotguns could fall into the hands of extremists and criminal gangs.

ALSO READ Why are Americans so fond of their ‘Gun’ culture?

It is estimated that there are about 260,000 unregistered weapons in Australia, which has some of the world’s toughest gun control measures. They include a 28-day waiting period, comprehensive background checks, and a requirement to have a “justifiable reason” to own a firearm. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since the legislation was introduced.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the measures are crucial to Australian society.

“Now, it is vitally important that we maintain our gun control laws. They are among the strictest in the world,” he said. “We have seen the shocking tragedy in Las Vegas. The killer there had a collection of semi-automatic weapons, which a person in his position would simply not be able to acquire in Australia. So, we have strict gun control laws … we do not take anything for granted.”

Anyone found with an unregistered firearm in Australia now faces up to 14 years in prison or a heavy fine.

The opposition Labor party has called for the three-month gun amnesty to be extended, and for life sentences to be handed down on criminals who smuggle firearms into Australia. (VOA)

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Australia to Witness New Intelligence Laws By Sweeping Older Ones

Australian intelligence laws to be reviewed

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Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne (L-R), China's PLA Lieutenant-General He Lei and Canada's Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2018.
Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne (L-R), China's PLA Lieutenant-General He Lei and Canada's Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan listens to U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis' address at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, June 2, 2018. VOA

Australia’s intelligence laws are to be reviewed in the most comprehensive overhaul of national security legislation in decades.

The review will take 18 months and will be led by a former spy chief. It will be the most comprehensive review of Australia’s intelligence laws since the 1970s. Much of its terms of reference are being kept secret but officials say the shake-up will look at how information is shared among the nation’s six security and intelligence agencies, as well with other law enforcement bodies.

Analysts say the review is long overdue with existing laws designed for a previous era. They say the review would likely address the main threats facing Australia; terrorism, cyber-warfare and influence by foreign powers.

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Law books, Representational image, Pixabay

Australia’s federal Attorney-General Christian Porter says the overhaul will help to integrate the various agencies that keep the nation safe.

“The control, direction and coordination of all of these agencies, and the way they interact with non-intelligence agencies and state-based agencies, such as state police forces. It is looking at how we share information and whether or not that can be improved on.It is looking at the overall staffing and resourcing, so it has a very holistic approach, and the other thing it will look at is accountability and oversight,” said Porter.

The review comes amid rising fears in Australia over the influence of China in its domestic affairs.

Earlier this week media reports detailed allegations apparently contained in a top-secret report that China has attempted to influence Australia’s political parties for the past decade, as well as every level of government.

Beijing has previously accused Australia of being anti-China.

Last year the Australian government introduced new foreign interference laws into federal parliament, which, if passed, would put a ban on all overseas political donations. In January, Australian opposition Senator Sam Dastyari was forced to resign over alleged links to Chinese authorities.

Also read: More than 200 Commonwealth Games Athletes Seek Asylum in Australia and 50 go missing

Australia’s National Terrorism Threat Level remains set at “probable,” which means security agencies believe that individuals or groups have the intent and capability to carry out a terrorist attack in Australia. (VOA)