For every two people there are 1.7 guns in Gympie
THE Gympie region may be a progressive and peaceful community, nestled on the cusp of the rapidly expanding south-east corner, but we still love our guns - perhaps more than anyone else in Queensland.
For every two people living in this region there are 1.7 registered weapons.
In Imbil, the ratio of guns per person is more than double that, with a population of less than 1000 owning 2759 weapons.
Queensland Police figures obtained by The Gympie Times reveal that within the boundaries of Gympie alone, as at May 26 this year, there were 18,243 registered weapons.
Throughout the region, taking in Kilkivan, Goomeri, Tiaro, Imbil and Tin Can Bay, there are more than 27,300 registered weapons.
This compares with about 600,000 state-wide.
Based on these figures, the Gympie region accounts for 4.5% of the registered weapons in Queensland.
Gympie gun dealer Ron Owen, however, says authorities are up to 11 months behind in processing new firearm registrations, so the true figure is higher.
He also believes police are downplaying the number of licensed gun owners in Queensland to avoid political action from a State Government that might suddenly realise gun owners represent a significant voting block.
Mr Owen moved to Gympie and opened his business, Owens Guns, on the northern outskirts of the city 34 years ago, drawn here because the region was so "firearm orientated".
He says that orientation has not changed much since then, in spite of the more restrictive gun control laws introduced in 1997-1998.
It's still a strong market, and getting stronger.
Apart from a small store at Bundaberg, Owens Guns' nearest competitors are in Brisbane to the south and Mackay to the north.
In the past 10 years, the business has sold 70,000 weapons, Mr Owen says. State-wide, the growth in gun sales averages 16% a year, and on the Gold Coast 32%, according to an article in The Courier-Mail two years ago.
Despite the seemingly high number of weapons in circulation here, Queensland Police say the process to obtain a weapons licence is stringent.
"To successfully apply for a weapons' licence, applicants must have a genuine reason to hold a licence, have access to secure storage facilities and have completed an approved weapons safety course for the corresponding weapons licence," a police spokesman said.
They must also satisfy a list of personal requirements, such as ensuring the person is deemed "fit and proper" to hold such a licence.
But Mr Owen says the system is too hard and labour-intensive, and that authorities are not keeping up with the paperwork, resulting in the long delays for gun owners.
"They've created this system and now they can't cope," he says.
According to Wikipedia, as of 2007 about 5.2% of Australian adults (765,000 people) own and use firearms for hunting, controlling feral animals, collecting, and target shooting.
Fraser Island 11
Gin Gin 2469
Hervey bay 4849
Mount Perry 280
South Kolan 2496
Tin can bay 1094
Wide Bay Burnett total 65,748