The 'Gunpowder Plot': the number of registered guns by postcode (source: Ballarat Courier)

The exhibit shows the number of registered guns in Victoria by postcode, based on Police data. It was put together by two Fairfax journalists, Tom Cowie and Jordan Oliver, and published on the weekend in the Ballarat Courier (How many guns are registered in your postcode?).

They say there are 695,108 guns registered in Victoria, including rifles, handguns, paintball guns, machine guns and cannons. Legitimate reasons for owning a gun include target shooting, hunting, primary production and security-oriented occupations like police and prison guards.

The highest concentrations of guns are in the country, especially in the areas surrounding major regional population centres such as Bendigo, Ballarat, Wangaratta, Geelong, Bairnsdale and Traralgon. For example, the Courier reports 51,448 guns registered in the Geelong area and 57,621 in the Ballarat region.

It’s not solely a country phenomenon though. There are plenty of gun owners living in many of metropolitan Melbourne’s middle and outer ring ring suburbs, although given the larger population, the density of guns is lower than in the country. (1)

The number of city slickers with guns isn’t surprising because even in the country, hunting is by far the main reason owners give for gun ownership. For example, the Courier says Ballarat owners are over three times more likely to give hunting as their reason for owning a gun than primary production.

So far as the metropolitan area is concerned, gun ownership could easily be added to the suite of measures that differentiate inner Melbourne as a culturally different place from the middle and outer ring suburbs.

On this measure, the current extent of the  inner suburbs is relatively limited. In the north for example, the (absolute) number of guns in postcodes north of Moreland Rd and Darebin Rd is comparable to the outer suburbs and many regional areas.

I should emphasise a point made by commenters on the Courier’s article; registered owners have met the eligibility criteria for licensing and have the legal right to own a gun. They must be a ‘fit and proper person’, have undertaken a firearms safety course, and in some cases have their fingerprints taken.

Most of them don’t think there’s a legitimate reason for the Courier’s story. “Who cares”, says one, “I have 3 guns… Couldn’t care less if the neighbors on either side of me have 10 each! What I do care about is criminals with knives on ICE, or those types stealing cars! What is the media getting at lately??? There’s a drive against legitimate law abiding firearms owners to curb crime!!¬†?”.

There are other similar comments: “Sorry.. did I miss the point of this story??”; “Whats the problem then? At least we know where the registered ones are and these are owned by law abiding citizens”.; “Who cares how many firearms are registered in our area legal firearm owners are not the problem”.

Fair enough, but personally I find it discomforting that within my suburban postcode there are hundreds of devices with the potential to kill efficiently and remotely.

I might be over-sensitive because I abhor the idea of hunting; and I know someone in my area who had a rifle stolen from the gun cabinet in their house. I’d be happier if guns used for sport were located in a secure central repository e.g. at local police stations.

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  1. Leave off with the negative Collingwood stereotypes; the high concentration of guns registered in Collingwood is the Victoria Police armory.