POLICE are seizing guns at an unprecedented rate amid deep alarm at the number of illegal firearms in the hands of criminals.
The rate of people caught illegally carrying and using guns in Victoria has jumped by 30 per cent in the past decade as black marketeers cash in.
The .338-calibre Savage Arms rifle held by Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana (pictured) is just one example of the kind of firepower generating concern.
Capable of firing a bullet over a distance of more than 1km, it was found by the police’s Santiago organised crime taskforce.
In recent days, guns have been seized from members of the Finks and Outlaws motorcycle gangs.
Police confiscated eight guns after a raid sparked by a drive-by shooting at a Lalor house at the weekend.
Mr Fontana said drug dealers were a key part of the market in trafficking illegal guns.
He was speaking before Operation Unification, a two-week nationwide crackdown on illegal firearms, which starts next Monday.
Mr Fontana said a major priority for police was trying to ensure licensed firearms owners and dealers properly secure their weapons.
“There is … a concerning trend in Victoria around firearm theft from rural properties, with some of these stolen firearms finding their way to criminals connected to the drug trade and organised crime,” he said.
Mr Fontana said he was concerned at the common use of guns in drive-by shooting attacks and road rage.
“The risk is that someone is going to be killed … an innocent person (or) a police officer,” he said.
“We’re responding to so many shooting incidents now. We’ve got road-rage incidents where weapons are produced.”
Mr Fontana said guns were increasingly being used in kidnappings where victims were taken to retrieve a debt.
“Some (victims) have been shot and they’re still uncooperative,” he said.
Mr Fontana said bikies were major players in the illegal guns world.
“We know they’ve got some really nasty weapons. They’re moving them around all the time.”
Mr Fontana said public help was crucial in getting guns out of the wrong hands and anyone knowing of people keeping firearms illegally should come forward.
“Information from the public about illegal firearm activity could save a life or prevent someone in the community being seriously injured,” he said.