Another day, another social media outrage. This time, firearm related.
A Victorian Policeman was filmed shooting a presumably injured kangaroo on an inner suburban street in Mernda, Victoria a couple of days ago. As usual, Facebook court was in full session with triggered hardcore vegans, bored suburban housewives and self-appointed experts all weighing in.
While public animal destruction is a common occurrence in rural Australia and well within Police powers, it went viral due to the fact that a child appeared to be down range when Police pulled the trigger. It also drew ire for the lack of animal welfare the kangaroo was subject to – being shot and left to bleed to death.
It is difficult to tell from the footage what firearm or calibre was used by Police, our guess is it was a .223 but we will stand corrected if evidence to the contrary is presented. Prior to the trigger being pulled a fellow officer can be heard off camera saying “there’s a kid coming” yet, the other officer proceeds to fire anyway. From our perspective, the officer pulling the trigger broke one of the golden rules of firearm safety and failed to identify what was behind his target proceeding to fire anyway, exacerbating the risk to the child. Another officer was aware of the oncoming child and safety protocol was ignored. The officer could easily have waited for the child to pass or to have the child proceed to a safe direction before the animal was euthanized. The dangers of shooting at a hard surface appear also not to be taken into consideration. Further, the shot placement of the Police officer from such a close distance is poor and inhumane – the kangaroo is clearly still alive and there was no follow up shot or head shot to minimize the suffering of the animal.
This is a perfect example of why Category H is available for Primary Producers and exactly why they should be relegalised for hunting to safely dispatch fallen prey – isn’t that right Bill Byrne?
Now, imagine had there been a ricochet and the child had been struck. Yup, Facebook court would be screaming for the death penalty. Victoria Police say they are conducting a full internal review and it will be interesting to see the actual outcome of said review and if it amounts to more than “we investigated ourselves and found nothing wrong”. One thing is for sure – if this had been a Law Abiding Firearm Owner or someone had been down range at any firearm range in Australia, the range would be closed permanently in a matter of minutes and licences confiscated everywhere.
Before we go any further, there is a plethora of uniformed experience here at FOU from the ADF to federal and state law enforcement (author included) – so we are well within our rights to discuss this issue. And while we thank those who don the uniform in varying capacities, we are not beyond constructive criticism. A uniform is also not a get out of jail free card or a licence to be a condescending authoritarian to everyone else on the issue of firearms but unfortunately some take this route.
This example again confirms the reality that Police training standards are woefully inadequate. A week or two at the academy and then one requalifying shoot a year on some static targets at 10-30 metres with 30 rounds (varies from state to state), handgun only. Victoria is the only exception with once every six months. Defence is not much better. Non-combat roles usually get once a year often on an electronic Steyr and even combat roles, outside of SF units, get far less live fire exercises than you think. Further, Police and ADF are generally trained only to qualify on the firearm – they are not trained to be experts unless in the minority of cases they are in an instructional role or that their job role requires them to be of such calibre, excuse the pun.
Now compare that to the Category H Handgun licence holder, who must shoot a minimum of 6-12 times a year (depending on what state you’re in) just to hold on to their licence. So who is better trained? Even Queensland Police admitted that it’s Law Abiding Firearm Owners.
Are there Police and ADF that shoot privately as well? Absolutely. And many of them are outstanding shooters and citizens who support private firearm ownership. Some others, not so much.
That being said, marksmanship and firearm retention are skills. And like any other skill they need to be practiced consistently for proficiency to be obtained and maintained – it is not an automatic right of passage that comes with wearing a certain shade of clothing and completing basic training. Thinking that wearing a uniform equals firearms expertise is akin to saying someone wearing a gi and training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu once a year is equivalent to a black belt.
This also applies to the myth of higher responsibility. Police/ADF have accidents, steal firearms, shoot dogs while cooked on meth and pull guns on speeding motorists. It also greatly frustrating to LAFO’s when Senior Police cannot correctly identify firearms outside of a Divsional Firearms Officer. To be fair, their job description is too broad in most cases however, this is not acceptable when Senior Police influence decisions on the NFA and Firearms Act yet don’t have the knowledge base to do so, such as Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana calling a perfectly legal Category B rifle a “machine gun.”
So why is this attitude so prevalent in Australia? 20 years of deliberate anti-firearm social engineering mainly, but I would argue it also flows back to the “Convict Mentality” that has unfortunately been instilled and re-enforced in the Australian psyche since settlement. Authority is seen as god and saviour and not to be challenged.
It is incidents like Hornsby, the Lindt Café and now Kangaroo-gate that remind us that Police and ADF are like the rest of us. While they go above and beyond the call of duty more often than “civvies” they are essentially human and fallible.
This also extends to the self defence argument for firearms. The average Australian still believes that only Police/ADF should be carrying firearms for self-defence yet never seems to make the connection that the victim is always the first responder to a violent crime, not the Police. And that Police carry guns for self-defence but never question why their lives are apparently more important than a law abiding citizen who meets the background checks and has to wait for Police help in an emergency.
The most poignant example of this tragically happened just this week when, only two days after Victoria Police went on record and stated they do not support the public having pepper spray and tasers for home defence, one of it’s own officers was stabbed in the face twice by a home invader. Police cannot take their firearms home and unfortunately for this officer, this was one of those situations where he needed it.
No, uniform and rank does not equal firearm expertise. This meme and perception needs to vanish.