Anti-firearm soft lobbying over Tasmanian Liberals’ proposals begins

As expected, the media machine has already started soft lobbying to try and pressure the Tasmanian Liberals to cave in over their sensible changes to the Firearms Act. Apart from the liars over at the Guardian still trying to claim the changes were released on the night before the election and not on February 9th 2018, there was this from the Advocate:

“Proposed changes to Tasmania’s gun laws may be amended through the parliamentary process, Premier Will Hodgman has acknowledged. In his first media conference since polling day, which saw the Liberals retain a comfortable majority in the lower house, Mr Hodgman said his government would not rush its plan to reform gun laws.

On Friday, one day before Tasmanians went to the polls, Fairfax Media reported that the Liberals intended to change state gun laws that have been in place since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. The changes would take gun licence testing and training responsibilities from sole provider, TasTAFE, and allow farmers to carry pump-action shotguns and self-reloading weapons unlocked in their vehicles.

The Liberals would also establish a nine-member Tasmanian Firearms Owners Council to review and develop protocol around firearms being carried in public places. It will also look at the circumstances around banning guns that have a “military appearance”, and the creation of a new gun category – Category E – to encompass all prohibited firearms.

Mr Hodgman said that if any aspects of the new laws were found to conflict with the National Firearms Agreement, the Liberals would not pursue any such changes. “We will not rush on any area of policy reform, particularly when it’s a matter as serious as this,” he said.

“We do … as the architects of the National Firearms Agreement, greatly respect the need for Tasmania to have strong laws, regulations that assist lawful gun-owners to go about their business or their recreation. We will take and continue to take advice on these matters. We will not, and this is my firm guarantee, do anything to compromise the National Firearms Agreement.”

But Mr Hodgman said the advice he had received so far was that the changes would not be in breach of the NFA.

“[The laws] require legislative change so it will be subject to the most robust scrutiny through parliamentary processes. That’s how that particular policy will be advanced,” he said. The Liberals’ proposed changes provoked outcry last week from survivors of the Port Arthur massacre and gun control advocates.

Gun Control Australia chairwoman Sam Lee said the gun lobby was on the rise in Australia and that gun laws were “slipping away” due to pressure being applied on law-makers. She said Australia was bearing witness to lobbying tactics “straight from the NRA textbook”. 

​“You get one state to weaken its laws and the other states will follow, which is exactly what we are seeing,” Ms Lee said.”

The usual whinge from Sam Lee in among her rank stupidity like using a movie to justify banning suppressed shotguns. Bit rich of her to complain about “gradual changes” when her organisation has done that for 30 years. You can give it but you can’t take it Sam? Whatever, that’s called politics.

While the PA survivors (note it was only Walter Mikac as usual and Peter Crosswell who were in the media and I’m sure they’re racing around to get soundbites from others) have the right to voice their opinion, being a victim should not be one’s sole and only platform for entering the debate. In fact, that’s really all Mikac usually has and while it is an opinion, it is only one and it is not evidence based. To be dismissive of the nearly 40,000 firearm owners in Tasmania because of something 20 years ago they had nothing to do with, is not an argument.

These changes were developed in consultation with the Tasmanian Graziers Association and the SSAA Tasmania. Interesting to also note that Labour had almost exactly the same policy, but the media skipped over that.

The whole premise of this scare mongering is based around an assumption that changing unworkable and overly bureaucratic laws are “watering down”. No-one is getting rid of background checks, so it can’t be called watering down and that’s the long and short of it. These are people who are already vetted to own a firearm and it matters not what type of firearm they own. To suggest otherwise is frankly disingenuous and implies that everyone who wants a gun is getting one – pure tripe.

It also assumes that the National Firearms Agreement is a legally binding agreement – it is not, it never has been and the states are free to ignore it. Even the Attorney-General himself stated at the 2015 Senate Inquiry that Firearms are a state matter. The NFA is purely enforced as it was incarnated – through financial (and emotional) blackmail from the federal government.

The changes proposed by Hodgman are excellent. 10 year licences are already in place in the NT, suppressors are a much needed engineering control and public health money-saving initiative and Category C changes are just common sense.

The statement “allow farmers to carry pump-action shotguns and self-reloading weapons unlocked in their vehicles” is quite deliberately misleading and the Advocate should be retracting that statement and actually looking into what is being proposed.

Reminder to Will Hodgman – you’ll get far greater respect for delivering on what was promised in consultation. Bowing to emotional blackmail from a small minority of bullies not only makes you look weak, it completely undermines the so-called democratic values we uphold. Not that we would be surprised.

The debate needs to move past this simple black and white perspective. Don’t just take it from me, Dr Samara McPhedran also agrees.

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