Aussie gun store owner says we’re getting it wrong
AN AUSTRALIAN gun store manager says he's tired of being abused every time a criminal does something wrong - and the rest of the time, too.
Peter Athanassiou, who runs Safari Firearms in Sydney's south, believes we're approaching the issue of mass shootings all wrong, and it's people like him who have to deal with the fallout of the misconceptions.
"Every time a criminal does something wrong, it's our fault," he tells news.com.au. "We don't have time for that s**t.
"I cop it all the time ... 'You're a monster.' Greenies coming into the store and shouting ... They're targeting the wrong people.
"Some people make good points, everyone has their opinions. But I don't go around massacring every deer I see.
"You can't do much unless you've got a big community to back you up, which is why we keep our mouths shut.
"The Adler they tried to ban has been around since cowboys and Indians, but instead of kicking up a stink, we just say go ahead. It wasn't legal in NSW anyway."
'WE CAN'T COMPARE OURSELVES TO AMERICA'
As the debate over gun control rears its head in the United States following the Florida shooting, many despair over changing the law in many states, where firearms regulation is only weakening.
Mr Athanassiou, 28, thinks we shouldn't try. "American gun laws are very lenient. But they've got the First and Second Amendment. We don't have that in Australia. We can't compare ourselves to that."
Unlike many Aussies, he's not convinced that John Howard's gun regulation after the 1996 Port Arthur mass shooting really achieved as much as we think. "If you look at the stats prior to Port Arthur and after, nothing's changed," he says. "Twenty years prior to that, the same sort of s**t.
"Australian gun laws are s**t. Gun laws didn't change anything. People are still getting shot."
While gun deaths have incontrovertibly declined since 1996, ABC Fact Check noted in 2016 that experts believed the impact of Mr Howard's reforms on those declines was debatable. Other research argued the reforms accelerated the rates of decline. ABS data shows the rate of suicide by firearm fell by 67 per cent from 2.1 deaths per 100,000 of the population in 1996 to 0.7 deaths in 2014.
' I CAN SELL YOU A GUN THAT WILL TAKE DOWN AN AEROPLANE'
The gun store manager says our regulations don't make sense.
"Our guns laws need to be changed," says Mr Athanassiou. "It should be about the community rather than picking on people. It's so easy to lose your licence.
"I can't sell a semiautomatic .22 rifle that does for shooting rabbits, but I can sell you a gun that will take down an aeroplane.
"New Zealanders have silencers, semiautomatics, everything, and they're the most peaceful people around.
"If something is in the wrong hands, it can do a lot of damage.
"A semiautomatic can shoot quicker and damage quicker. But if I drive a truck into a room full of people, it will do more damage. Look at the stats, it was a semiautomatic that did the least damage.
"We get punished. You don't ban cars because of drink driving."
The rules are so tight that Mr Athanassiou himself doesn't have a licence to shoot some of the guns he sells - he has a category B, while the categories go up to D.
Mr Athanassiou says he does get people "being a nuisance" in the store sometimes, but it's usually drunks. "We get the odd person who's not supposed to be at the shop, we get suspicious, we call the police. I've never had a firearms holdup or anything.
"Someone will come in without a licence, and they'll be very persistent - 'I left my licence at home'. They'll go from one staff member to another."
HOW DO YOU BUY A GUN IN AUSTRALIA?
To gain a gun licence, an Australian needs to undergo rigorous background checks, safety training and testing.
When a buyer then enters Mr Athanassiou's store, staff check they have a valid firearms licence, that their photo is accurate and may check their driver's licence matches. If they see a gun they want to buy, they put in a permit to acquire that gun, which can take six to eight weeks, and the details of that person's name, licence number and date and location of purchase are sent to the gun registry. "Everything is backed up like you wouldn't believe," says Mr Athanassiou.
"The problem is, 90 per cent of the stuff that goes wrong with guns is with criminals, who haven't legally bought a gun."
In fact, you can legally buy an AR-15 in Australia, the gun used in the Florida shooting, but there are many hoops you need to jump through.
"It's got to be your primary source of income," says Mr Athanassiou. "You can only use it on your property ... you have to keep applying every year. They're very on top of you, if you don't have enough work, they'll take it off you. They're very strict. You have to keep returning to the registry, do this, do that. It's a pain in the arse.
"They're so strict on us, but when the s**t hits the fan, they call someone with a gun.
"Our Australian self-defence laws are really bad. You really can't defend yourself. If someone tries to mug me and I pull out a knife, I'm the criminal. Americans can carry pepper spray, tasers to defend themselves."