– South Australian Judge Wants Total Gun Ban (LiveLeak, Sep 26, 2014):
SOUTH Australia needs a blanket ban on gun ownership in metropolitan areas to save lives and improve public safety, a respected senior SA judge has declared.
In a move that will ignite debate on gun laws, Supreme Court Justice Michael David said the issue of “gun availability’’ had been a recurring theme in a significant number of cases he had presided over during his 18 years on the District and Supreme Court benches.
He believes removing them from the community would prevent a significant number of domestic shootings.
“My view is I think our guns laws are pretty tight, they are not too bad. But my view on guns is not confined to that,’’ he said.
“In my view, and it is a fairly utopian view, I can’t see why anyone in this city should own a gun. I think a gun with a licence is just as dangerous as a gun without a licence.
“I think there should be a law that no-one is allowed to have a gun. I cannot see any logical reason for it at all.’’
Mark McPherson, the father of 18-year-old Lewis McPherson who was gunned down on New Year’s Eve in 2012, supports Justice’s David’s suggestion.
He said he “absolutely’’ supported Justice David’s views on guns and believed there was “no need at all’’ for anyone in the metropolitan area to own a firearm.
“I could not agree more. Nobody in the city requires a gun,’’ he said.
“In a perfect world, no-one would have a gun and no-one could shoot anyone. But the reality is a farmer probably has a legitimate reason to have a gun. But as far as people in the city go, no they definitely should not.’’
Mr McPherson said he believed the community was ready to “have a mature conversation’’ about gun ownership because of the “many, many conversations with members of the public’’ following his son’s death.
“I think the community is sick of gun crime and guns in the community,’’ he said.
Attorney-General John Rau, who will shortly introduce new legislation targeting those selling or supplying illegal firearms, also said he “totally agreed’’ with Justice David’s utopian view.
“If we were starting from scratch, nothing would be more desirable from my point of view,’’ he said.
“We have to, however, work to where we are, not where we might wish to be.
“However, I do think there is further room to tighten the Firearms Act, in particular to treat an unsecured firearm, whether registered or not, with exactly the same severity.
“There is probably a good case for making the security of a firearm at least as critical as the fact of it being registered and the owner being licensed.’’
There are currently about 309,000 registered firearms in SA and 65,400 licences issued to 55,000 licensees.
Justice David, who retires next month after eight years on the Supreme Court bench and a decade on the District Court bench, said the only exceptions he could think of were gun enthusiasts who were members of gun clubs or farmers.
“There is going to be exceptions like gun clubs and things like that, but they are very much exceptions,’’ he said.
“People will come back and say, well what about organised crime? Well I am not talking about organised crime, they will always be able to get guns and they have to be fought in a different way.
“What I am talking about, from both my experience as a barrister and on the bench, is those cases where someone has died because there is a gun available.
“Either someone loses it, someone has a mental problem, someone is drunk or there is a robbery and someone has a gun.
“Now a lot of people die because of that. There may be a gun in the home and there is an argument, that happens. I have a utopian idea that there is no place in our society for guns, especially handguns.’’
While he acknowledged there would be opposition to his suggestion he believed “most of the community would applaud it, to be quite frank.’’
He said he felt the move “would save a lot of lives’’ because many of the crimes he had encountered had only occurred because of the availability of a firearm in the house.
“A lot of these things are gratuitous, they are off the cuff, they just happen to have a gun there,’’ he said. “I have found this in a lot of cases.’’
Justice David said that during his lengthy stint on both the District Court and Supreme Court benches, he had witnessed the increase in gun crimes.
“What is causing it I am not sure, but it is not organised criminal behaviour. It is this domestic, often drug-affected scenario where there is a gun around,’’ he said.
“It would save lives. With a gun, it is all over.’’
In July, Mr Rau announced legislation would be introduced to ensure anyone convicted of selling or supplying an illegal firearm would serve a mandatory prison term.
Justice David said he was “not keen ‘’ on mandatory sentencing or any measure that remove a Judge’s discretion in sentencing.
“I think the discretion should be there, but I think the court has to be pretty tough,’’ he said.
Gun control doesn’t reduce crime rates: