Son’s plea after father’s killing

Alpha Cheng at the funeral service for his father, NSW Police accountant Curtis Cheng, at St Mary’€™s Cathedral on October 17. Photo: Sam RuttynALPHA CHENG is the son of Curtis Cheng who was shot outside Parramatta police stationTwenty years ago, my father and I moved to Australia from Hong Kong. We lived in a room above his small business in Eastwood. My biggest concern at that time was whether or not I’d make new friends and fit in. I distinctly remember watching the Port Arthur massacre unfold that same year. I never expected to be sharing the same forum with survivors 20 years later.
Nanjing Night Net

One of the survivors of Port Arthur, Carolyn Loughton, sat next to me on theSBS Insightprogram on gun control. I was stunned as she recounted how the events unfolded: how Martin Bryant walked into the cafe with an oversized sports bag during a busy lunch session; how he proceeded to shoot his victims in quick succession with a semi-automatic rifle; how she was shot as she threw herself over her daughter, Sarah, only realising later in the hospital that Sarah had been fatally shot in the back of her head.

This was a chilling precursor to my story. On October 2 last year, as my dad was leaving work, a 15-year old boy walked up and shot him in the back of the head.

TORN APART: Alpha Cheng, with his father Curtis, has called for tougher gun laws in the wake of his father’s murder outside the Parramatta police station last October.

Carolyn and I are living testaments to the terrible tragedies that occur when guns end up in the wrong hands. There is widespread belief that the gun control measures introduced post-Port Arthur largely eradicated illegal guns in Australia. I certainly believed that our gun policies would have prevented a 15-year-old from illegally accessing a .38 Smith & Wesson revolver. This was clearly not the case.

The Australian Institute of Criminology estimates there are about 250,000 long arms, such as rifles and shotguns, in circulation on the illicit marketand 10,000 illegal handguns. TheAICconducted theNational Firearm Theft Monitoring Program from 2004-05 to 2008-09 and the average number of firearmsreportedstolen each year was 1545. This statistic is alarming and it highlights for me the gaps in our approach. More needs to be done.

First, there should befewer guns. During theInsightforum, I asked John Howard whether he thought it was time for another national amnesty on guns, firearms and weapons, especially unregistered and illegally obtained weapons. He agreed.Indeed, this was one of the few points that appeared to have unanimous support from both anti- and pro-gun sides of the audience.

The pro-gun members of the audience challenged my preconceptions. After hearing their perspective, I acknowledge the need for pragmatic gun laws for recreational users, sport shooters and people living on the land. However, this should not, and I believe it does not, contradict the need for tightening gun policy to prevent guns from being obtained illegally or for illegal means.

Preventivemeasures, such as thorough background checks and access to mental health records, need to be consistent across the nation. For law-abiding users, the checks and balances must be of the highest standard as a gun, despite having recreational and occupational utility, also has the potential to kill when in the wrong hands.

We hear a lot about personal freedom in this debate and I believe that the freedoms we have in Australia are precious. The freedom to be able to walk where you want and not fear for your safety: that is our right as Australians. It is now the responsibility of decision-makers to maintain and protect this. It is time for another amnesty on firearms and it is time for all parties to come together andshow some collective courage to put aside differences to create a safer and more harmonious country for all.

NSW police farewell Curtis Cheng

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