Legal gun ownership increased sharply in the Clarence Valley over the five years to May, with some parts of the region stocked with enough firepower to arm a third of the population.
Grafton has the biggest stockpile of weapons in raw numbers with a registered cache of 7,930 guns, following an increase almost triple that of the state’s 10% rise over the period.
But Wooli remains the region’s most firearm-saturated location with one gun for every three people.
The Greens obtained the fresh data from NSW Police, who later confirmed the state’s number of registered firearms hit more than 850,000 on May 16.
“The total number of firearms licence holders with the authority to possess and use firearms in NSW is 217,725 although not all licence holders own firearms,” a police spokesman said.
“This figure includes individuals, businesses, firearm dealers and club armourers.”
While the Greens called for tougher laws to stop the surge, sports shooters called for parliament to crack down on illegal weapons rather than those sanctioned by the state.
Grafton Pistol Club president Mark Chard said he supported tough gun regulations and was convinced their goal of improving community safety had been achieved.
He attributed much of the surge in firearm ownership to shooting’s rising popularity as a sport.
“It’s not the farmer on the land – he only wants a basic gun to put down a sick animal and for vermin control,” Mr Chard said.
“It’s the sporting side that’s increased. And there are so many different facets within each sport.
“You’ll have different guns for different competitions, and most people don’t just shoot in one form of competition.”
Mr Chard said authorities were continually checking sports shooting venues to ensure they were maintained to high safety standards.
Greens NSW MP David Shoebridge said the number of firearms would continue to grow exponentially unless the law was changed.
“Firearms are not like hamburgers or even motor vehicles, they can last almost indefinitely. So every new gun we allow to be registered adds to an ever growing stock of weapons,” he said.
“There are hundreds of thousands more guns now than following the gun buyback in the late 1990s.
“We need a majority of politicians to stand up for safety and stare down the growing gun lobby in this country.”
GUN REGISTRATIONS MAY 2010-MAY 2015
Grafton: 27.7% increase to 7,930 guns – 28% of population
Yamba: 10.4% increase to 462 guns – 7% of population
Iluka: 12.5% increase to 268 guns – 16% of population
Brooms Head: 27.9% increase to 1,564 guns – 22% of population
Wooli: 33.3% increase to 945 guns – 33.3% of population
Red Rock: 31.7% increase to 1,265 guns – 9% of population