INTERACTIVE MAP | North East arsenal stands at 42,000

David Cole is surprised there are not more guns registered in the North East. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL
David Cole is surprised there are not more guns registered in the North East. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

NORTH East Victorian shooters have been urged to consider how they store the almost 42,000 firearms registered in the region in a bid to reduce their theft.

Eastern region’s firearms officer Leading Sen-Constable Andrew Auhl said many owners stored guns in clothes lockers up to 100 metres from their house with only a padlock securing the locker.

“Firearms must be stored in a steel receptacle and not easily penetrable,” Sen-Constable Auhl said.

“If it weighs less than 150 kilograms when empty, it must be fixed to a wall.”

A steel or clothing locker is legal, but it would be hard to argue in a court it met requirements if firearms were stolen from it.

“Chances are that if your firearms were stolen you’d be interviewed at the very least,” Sen-Constable Auhl said.

He urged owners to use a gun safe after a rise in the number of firearm thefts across Victoria.

“A farmer on a property who has had firearms in a shed for a long time could be seen as a soft target,” he said.

“It’s about keeping the community safe because if a firearm falls into the wrong hands it is dangerous and could be used for illegal activity.”

Wodonga has 5711 registered firearms, the highest number in the region.

The North East’s arsenal includes machine guns, bazookas and cannons, registered at Yarrawonga, Wodonga and Benalla.

Click on your area to find out how many firearms are registered in your postcode. 

Sen-Constable Auhl said they were owned by collectors or museums and were deactivated.

Manager of Wangaratta’s Adventure Camping, Fishing and Firearms, David Cole, said he was surprised there were not more registered firearms in the region.

“Our sales increase every year by 20 to 30 per cent,” he said.

“I would have thought it would have been more because about 50 people a month try to get their firearm licence and that’s just in Wangaratta.”

Police data shows category A firearms, including shotguns and airguns, are the most common.

Mr Cole said that reflected the growing problem of vermin.

“There is a need for shotguns, airguns and centrefire rifles,” he said.

“People move from the city to a country property and realise they need a firearm because foxes do eat chooks.

“In rural areas they are just a tool — you have a chainsaw, you have a firearm. It’s part of life.”

Mr Cole was surprised at the number of paintball guns registered.

He said he had never sold one.

There are two at Benalla, three at Wangaratta, two at Barnawartha, eight in Wodonga and one at Yackandandah.

Sen-Constable Auhl said people with unregistered category A firearms could be jailed for up to two years for the first offence and 10 years for a second offence.