CANBERRA, April 9 AAP - Illegal guns remain a major problem for Australia but data is so deficient no-one knows for sure how many are in the community or where they come from.
A Senate committee examining the ability of law enforcement to eliminate gun-related violence found wide variations in available information from state, territory and federal police, and from other agencies.
Committee chair, Greens Senator Penny Wright, said it was staggering how little accurate data there was about the illicit firearms market and how many barriers and inconsistencies existed between different government departments.
"If we're serious about addressing gun crime in Australia and reducing the number of illegal firearms, all governments need to work together and all the agencies should be talking the same language," she said.
In their majority report, government committee members plus Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm said one of the difficulties for the inquiry was the inability to ascertain with any degree of certainty where most illicit guns originated and the size of the illegal gun market.
"The lack of reliable data on the size of the illicit (or black) and grey market means that currently it is impossible to accurately assess the extent of the problem," they said.
That was one of the few points of agreement between Senator Wright and the majority members.
She accused them of kowtowing to the gun lobby in refusing to acknowledge that the major source of illegal guns was theft from legitimate gun owners.
The majority report said the evidence, including that from law enforcement agencies, confirmed that most illegal guns did not originate from licensed firearm owners.
The Australian Crime Commission estimates 250,000 illegal longarms and 10,000 handguns. Senator Wright said that was probably a conservative estimate.
The majority said that estimate, based on a tracing analysis of 3186 guns seized by police, was questionable. The actual sample was 2119 guns of which a third had an unknown method of diversion due to insufficient information.