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Minister defends gun ownership laws

AAP logoAAP 4/01/2017 Belinda Merhab

Deputy Nationals leader Fiona Nash has defended existing systems for keeping track of guns in Australia amid calls for better monitoring of firearm owners.

The firearm debate has been stirred up by the Australian Medical Association whose new position statement on guns calls for tighter restrictions on who can own a firearm.

The AMA also wants a real-time national firearms licensing register, incorporating information from all states and territories to track the location of each registered firearm.

Senator Nash says the movement of registered firearms is already monitored by a national information network.

She said there was more to be done when it came to combating illegal firearms but defended those who legally own guns.

"The firearms issue is a national issue that people are of course concerned about," she told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.

"But I absolutely support those legal gun owners who are doing the right thing."

The AMA says possession of firearms in the community is a public health issue, arguing most gun-related deaths in Australia are suicides within the families of gun owners.

It points to official figures showing that of the 253 people who died from gunshots in Australia in 2014, 185 were deemed suicides.

AMA president Michael Gannon said the proposed register would make gun ownership similar to vehicle ownership - with both the driver and each vehicle licensed.

"What we don't want is a position where a lethal weapon is in the hands of someone in whose hands it might be dangerous," he told Sky News.

"So if someone has a restraining order against them, if their circumstances change, if someone has a criminal conviction, we want to know whether they have a gun licence and whether or not they have a weapon potentially at their fingertips."

Liberal Democrat senator David Leyonhjelm said the proposal would make it more difficult for law-abiding firearm licensees to own guns.

He accused the AMA of being out of its depth.

"It illustrates that the AMA does not know the subject - what they're advocating is already the law in some cases and has been tried and failed in other cases.

"The simple fact is criminals do not use registered guns. You don't find out who committed crimes by a gun registry."

Dr Gannon defended the proposal, insisting doctors were qualified to speak on health issues.

"It's doctors in emergency departments, in general practice, in surgical operating theatres, who pick up the pieces when gun violence happens."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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