Police in the Australian state of Queensland have seized nearly 900 firearms in a crackdown ahead of the Commonwealth Games, which the Gold Coast is hosting in April.
In a statement, the Queensland Government revealed that the state-wide operation resulted in the discovery of 869 weapons since it began on 1 February.
Commissioner Ian Stewart said that while local police regularly carry out searches for illegally-held firearms, they stepped up efforts to locate illicit weapons in the lead-up to the Gold Coast Games.
Noting how legitimate firearms stolen from licenced owners made up the majority of the weapons seized during the operation, Stewart highlighted the extreme measures to which criminals will go to get their hands on legally-held guns.
The Commissioner described how gun thieves have been known to demolish walls of rural properties in a bid to gain access to safes containing legal firearms, but also explained how people are illegally modifying licenced weapons with kits that increase their ammunition capacity or enable automatic fire.
These kits, which are typically bought from overseas sellers online, are capable of turning legally-held firearms into semi-automatic or fully-automatic weapons.
In all, the launch of the operation prompted 101 incidents of people coming forward to police with firearms to hand in, resulting in the surrender of 227 guns.
Police also executed 110 search warrants, resulting in the seizure of 119 weapons.
“It is very satisfying to have removed these firearms from the criminal environment and once again demonstrates the power of community in solving these crimes,” Stewart said.
Commenting on Operation Quebec Camouflage, Police Minister Mark Ryan said: “This operation has already seen significant results thanks to the efforts of the police and public – and it is not even over yet.
“A large number of the 869 firearms recovered were found during proactive firearm audits conducted by police and as a result of information provided from our communities via Crime Stoppers.
“The public has been very supportive, with 101 incidents of people contacting police with firearms to hand in, resulting in the surrender of 227 firearms.
“This could simply be a case of someone finding a firearm that had been sitting in a garden shed following the passing of a relative or a firearm located when a property has been purchased.
“Although gun theft is at its lowest in Queensland in four years, of Operation Quebec Camouflage shows police are not resting on their laurels.”
Research published by RAND Europe in October last year revealed that Australians were increasingly buying guns and explosives from illicit marketplaces on the dark web, and were also downloading instructions on how to make bombs from overseas sellers.