Our Say: 260,000 reasons why gun amnesty is welcome

The announcement of a three-month amnesty for handing in unlicensed firearms to start on July 1 was as surprising as it is welcome.

This is, after all, a Government that has gone out of its way in recent times to close the gap between its own policies and those of the ultraconservatives.

One Nation, for example, is committed to watering down existing licensing regulations and reviewing restricted weapons categories with a view to broadening access to a wider range of rifles and shotguns.

Its supporters will find it hard to criticise Friday's announcement given the introduction of an open-ended amnesty on the surrender or registration of illegal weapons is the first point of their own Firearms and Gun Control Policy.

This amnesty, the first national initiative since the buy-back after the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 which saw over one million firearms handed in and destroyed at a cost of $500 million, targets the 260,000 illicit guns police believe are still circulating.

While it is unlikely to be of the same scale due to the lack of financial compensation, there is no doubt a significant number of guns will be taken off the streets.

This is largely because the authorities have eschewed the expensive carrot of compensation for the far cheaper stick of heavier penalties. People caught in possession of an unregistered firearm after the amnesty could face a $280,000 fine or up to 14 years in jail.

This is more than enough to make individuals who may have come into possession of a firearm as the result of the death of a relative, the end of a relationship or the jailing of a partner sit up and take notice.

While it is unlikely hardened criminals, outlaw bikie gang members and terrorists will be lining up to surrender their weapons, the pool of illicit guns they have been able to draw upon in the past will shrink.

The latest amnesty is driven by current events. Although Australia's gun controls have been effective, reducing the risk of being killed by shooting by 50 per cent since the mid-1990s, a spate of terror incidents and the ambush-style murder of a Queensland police officer have sparked fresh public concerns.

Yes, Gun Control Australia vice president, Roland Browne, is well within his rights to argue the amnesty won't do anything to combat terrorism but he is out of step with the wider community on this topic.

The prevailing view is the fewer guns there are the safer we all shall be.