ONE in almost every 16 people in Gladstone has a registered weapon.
The Queensland Police figures, obtained by The Observer, revealed that in Gladstone alone, as of May 1 this year there were 3686 registered weapons in existence, with 54,345 in total throughout the Capricornia district.
According to the latest Census data, there were just over 59,000 people in Gladstone, which accounted for the almost 4000 registered weapons in town.
Despite the seemingly high number of weapons circulating around the region, a Queensland Police spokesman maintained the process to obtain a weapons licence remained 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," the 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 and have not, within the past five years, been convicted of a disqualifying offence such as weapons, drugs or violence related offences."
Across the state, there were 45,794 sport shooting licences registered as of May 1, second only to recreational shooting on rural lands as the reason for firearms licences being issued.
Concealable firearm (handgun) licences also were relatively high, with 11,676 issued across Queensland.
While more than 9000 of those were for pistol shooting, there were still 251 issued for occupational purposes.
A total of 1192 licences were issued to individual security guards, although the QPS spokesman pointed out handgun licences were restricted.
"Queensland residents can also apply for a concealable firearms licence for the use of Category H weapons (handguns)," the spokesman said.
"This type of licence is only permitted for sports or target shooting, primary production or occupational reasons. It is not available for recreational shooting, such as hunting."
Interestingly, 170 recreational crossbow licences have been issued, as well as three licences for military re-enactment purposes.
Safety is most important factor at pistol club
DESPITE the high number of registered firearms in Gladstone, local sport shooters aren't concerned, with gun safety still number one priority.
Gladstone Pistol Club secretary Marg Baker said her club simply could not place enough emphasis on the importance of safe gun handling, a rule drilled into all members young and old.
"There's no way in the world we're going to risk our sport for somebody wanting to join a club for the wrong reasons," she said.
"For every single person you must have a licensed person instructing them. This is what we do every single day... safety is paramount."
The Gladstone club boasts about 80 members, a strong contingent, and Ms Baker said the highly restricted sport ensured that only those interested in shooting as a sport were welcome.
"If they have no licence at all then they have to go to the police and get a suitability clearance, a statement of eligibility, to join a pistol club and that's for anybody over the age of 11 who wants to join a pistol club," she said.
There's no way in the world we're going to risk our sport for somebody wanting to join a club for the wrong reasons
"You can apply for a minor's licence, but that only allows them (juniors from 11 to 18 years old) to handle their own firearm on the range.
"They can't own a firearm but they're licensed to handle that firearm on the range only."
Ms Baker, herself a long-time pistol shooter, said that the club took their responsibilities extremely seriously, especially in competition settings.
"Every match has an appointed range officer and that range officer has to put their name, licence number and date up on the board and they are totally responsible for the safety on that range," she said.
"Anything from two to 12 shooters, they don't do anything without the range officer's permission."
As well as competition conditions, Ms Baker said firearm security was also a matter of high importance, with members constantly reminded of security requirements of their weapons.
"We are absolutely serious when it comes to the safety and security of our firearms," Ms Baker said.
"Nobody is allowed to put a firearm onto the shooting bench without a range officer's permission and that goes for all adult, licensed people, that's how strict we are."
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