After a long, drawn out court hearing the South Australian Coroner has ruled that the actions of South Australia Police were a significant factor in the death of Brenton McConnal at Marksman’s Indoor Firing Range.
The Advertiser reports:
Coroner Mark Johns on Wednesday handed down the findings into the death of Brenton Winton McConnal, 47, who turned a gun on himself at the Marksman Indoor Firing Range on December 15, 2015.Mr Johns said SA Police could have progressed the installation of a tethering system at the Franklin St range that was developed in 2012 without prejudicing a four-year legal battle to cancel Marksman’s firearms licences.
Marksman made a tethering device in July 2012 but it was not installed until June 2016, after the Coroner intervened. Police then took only 20 minutes to inspect and approve the system.
The coroner’s report, which can be found here is quite damning of SAPOL’s handling of the Marksman’s case:
“Unfortunately Assistant Commissioner Newitt demonstrated the same tunnel vision and narrowness of thought that characterised Chief Superintendent Ralphs’ handling of the matter, and for that matter, the handling of the matter by SAPOL as an organisation. SAPOL was committed to one course and one course only, namely to put Marksman out of business as a commercial firing range.”
It was also revealed that miscommunications regarding Firearm Prohibitions Orders by SAPOL and McConnal’s mental health carer, of which Mr McConnal was subject to on mental health grounds, may have prevented McConnal’s suicide, something which Marksman’s clarified in a statement on Facebook on 4th March 2017.
It is understood that Andrew Marks is now actively pursuing SAPOL for compensation, and so he absolutely should.
As we’ve discussed in previous articles, firearms laws have done little to curb suicide in Australia with a record number of total suicides, 3027, recorded in 2015. The prevailing attitude towards suicide prevention seems to be to attempt to restrict one of many tools available to commit suicide, rather than address the root cause of why someone wants to end their life.
It also raises some questions about attitudes to firearm suicide, often used by anti-gun zealots like Rebecca Peters: why is suicide by firearm perceived as ‘worse’ than any other form of suicide? Is suicide at an indoor range any worse than that at an outdoor range and should they also have to ‘tether’ their firearms? No, of course not. The result is exactly the same: dead. Unfortunately, firearm suicide seems to have more political value than the overwhelming majority of people who tragically choose to take their own lives every year in Australia via hanging, poisoning, etc.
Phil Newitt and SAPOL’s actions in handling this case were disgraceful. In their defence they, much like Andrew Marks, had no control over Mr McConnal’s decision to end his life in this fashion. To be quite frank, McConnal would likely have sort out other methods to commit suicide should he have been prevented at Marksman’s. However it appears to us and of course, the SA Coroner, that SAPOL used this episode to attack law abiding firearm owners by trying to close down Marksman’s and cancel their licence even when Marksman’s were trying to rectify the situation. And that, they had full control over.
The chief takeaway from the Marksman’s affair is unfortunately yet another episode of unnecessary hostility towards law abiding firearm owners by Police Commissioners and management, a repeated pattern of behaviour which has unfortunately become all too common in Australia.
It’s really no surprise given Queensland Police’s recent actions regarding Category H permits and Primary Producers, Victoria Police Steve Fontana’s past indiscretions regarding firearms and President of the Tasmania Police Association Pat Allen making comments about firearm owners’ similar to that of Lesley Podesta.
Now, contrast this to the experience of Kiwi gun owners over in New Zealand and their zero tolerance for mistreatment from Police on all things firearms related. Their current battle with Chris Cahill being a great example. Compare the levels of firearm freedom and the point becomes clearer.
If Police Commissioners’ and management in Australia are going to continue to display this kind of behaviour and attitude towards law abiding firearm owners, then why should we have to consider anything they have to say on the issue of firearms as valid?
It is obviously possible to be both supportive and critical of Police on the issue of firearms. We will 100% support Police’s efforts to target and punish criminals and firearm crime. We will 100% oppose and criticise attempts by Police of the ilk of Phil Newitt to target and scapegoat law abiding firearm owners, in an attempt to further agenda-driven gun control, personal or otherwise.
I think that’s a fair deal.