Gun ownership has risen up to a staggering 38.8 per cent in the Maitland area in the past five years.
New police figures show that registered gun ownership in all postcodes in the Maitland and Cessnock regions jumped by a minimum of 22.1 per cent since 2010.
The rate of gun ownership in the 2320 postcode, which includes Maitland, Rutherford, Largs, Bolwarra and other nearby towns, jumped by 38.4 per cent.
While the figures might seem alarming to some, Thornton Hunting and Outdoors owner Chris Barrett, a licensed firearm dealer, said illegal guns should be the focus of community concern rather than rates of registered gun owners.
But the Greens’ spokesman for the Hunter David Shoebridge saw it differently, saying more legal guns in circulation meant that more firearms would end up on the black market.
Fairfax Media reported yesterday that the rate of registered gun ownership across NSW had jumped significantly in the past five years.
Mr Barrett said the sale of guns had steadily increased in the Maitland region during the past decade.
He put the increasing popularity of gun range sports as the reason behind the extra sales.
“What these statistics show is the increase in legal ownership of firearms by people vetted by police on a regular basis,” Mr Barrett said.
“Having a firearm licence does not give you carte blanche to run around and buy all the firearms and ammunition you want.
“The main point is that this shows an increase in the number of legal, vetted owners.”
“The concern is: what is the population of unlicensed, unvetted firearms possession? That’s not in the statistics.
“As an industry, we would advocate for improved education and security and the tightening of sentencing laws for people who commit crimes with a firearm.”
But Greens MLC and Hunter spokesman David Shoebridge told the Mercury that a growing pool of legal firearms in NSW meant more guns would be leaked onto the black market for illegal trade.
He also dismissed the effectiveness of tightening sentencing.
“Study after study has shown that increased sentences have almost no impact on crime levels,” Mr Shoebridge said.
“The gun lobby want to distract the public from effective gun control laws by talking about sentencing and other ineffective measures.
“The best way of stopping gun crime is reducing the number of guns in the first place.”
NSW Police Firearms commander Mick Plotecki told Fairfax Media this week that the combination of US popular gun culture and a recruitment drive by gun clubs could be behind the rise.
Source: NSW Police
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