STAFF in the NSW Police Minister’s office have approached police about easing firearms laws which would allow guns to look like high-powered, military-grade weapons.
Gun ownership advocates argue the laws governing the appearance of firearms are pointless because they focus on how a gun looks and not its destructive ability. But any potential softening of the laws has prompted concern from within NSW Police Force ranks, who fear the chaos a look-a-like military-style gun could cause in the wrong hands.
Firearms manufacturer Michael Burrough said he has faced problems from the NSW Firearms Registry, which is part of the NSW Police Force, over the gun stocks his business produces. His “tactical stocks” are black and aluminium, rather than the traditional wooden-type.
When attached to a rifle, the registry believes it falls foul of the appearance laws because it duplicates a military-style firearm, even though the gun’s firing speed is unchanged, he said.
Mr Burrough said a rifle coloured black which had been fitted with a custom stock and chassis — the body of the rifle — had been rejected by the registry. He then painted the gun red, white and blue, asking if it still appeared like a military weapon, but said it was again prohibited. Mr Burrough, whose business is within Nationals MP Mr Grant’s electorate in central west NSW, said he’s been forced to restrict its trade in NSW because of what he calls the ambiguity around the laws.
“The registry over the past 24 months has decided to expand that definition and say if that firearm is something that looks similar (to a military weapon), we are going to prohibit it,” he said.
A request for a guide about what exactly tips a legal firearm over the appearance threshold was knocked back, Mr Burrough said. Some senior police are unapologetic, claiming a weapon pimped to look like a high-powered assault rifle still appeared so similar to the real thing they couldn’t be told apart to the untrained eye or from a distance.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party MLC Robert Borsak, whose party has become a threat in some Nationals seats, is highly critical of the laws.
“Police will always have an argument to restrict anyone holding a firearm at all and they think our society will be safer if that happens,” he said. “A rational move would be to change the law and do away with the arbitrary judgment by parts of the police force.”
Michael Whybrew, of the Australian Paintball Industry Association, said there was a mindset in government that a firearm was more dangerous on its looks than its function. “A lot of our appearance laws can be subject to personal opinions,” he said.
Sources confirmed the Police Minister’s office had tested the waters about easing the legislation, but Police Minister Troy Grant had ruled out any changes. “There are no plans to make further changes to firearms laws,” a spokesman said.
True to form, the Daily Telegraph didn’t put that article on their social media network because they’re too afraid of public rebuttal. If you didn’t get the gist of the article, it was basically “we make the law even though we’re not supposed to and you don’t vote for us.”
Troy Grant also looks like he’s appearing to do something about this purely for his seat’s sake. The reality with Grant is simple – he rolled over on command over the Adler reclassification. In other words, just the usual lip service from the crumbling Nationals.
Perhaps the best part was the absolutely rubbish argument from NSW Police: “a weapon pimped to look like a high-powered assault rifle still appeared so similar to the real thing they couldn’t be told apart to the untrained eye or from a distance”.
Absurd. Most people and Australian Police struggle to identify a firearm correctly at close range, let alone from a distance. This is what caused the infamous training Steyr debacle in Queensland in 2015.
Classifying something based on it’s appearance and not performance, in the context of firearms, is absurdity and authoritarianism of the highest order. Especially in a country which pays lip service to non-discrimination on the basis of appearance.
Further, do victims of crime and shootings think and or/care about what firearm they are threatened and/or shot with? Are they going to know what it is in the first place? And are the Police going to react any differently, at least initially, to a firearm in public? The answer to that is no.
Do victims seriously say to themselves “Man I’m glad I was only killed with a .308 Tikka with a tactical stock and not an actual AR15, that could’ve been bad.” This is the “high level” argument being put forth by senior Police and it’s patently ridiculous.
If we applied the same logic to other things such as vehicles and actual criminal offences, could we imprison people for looking like a murderer or paedophile despite not being one?
For the non-firearm folk reading – it’s the same principle as putting a non-performance enhancing body kit on a Suzuki Swift and classifying it as an Aventador. An extreme polarisation yes, but you get the drift.
Australian firearm appearance laws are perhaps the stupidest gun laws ever designed – or the smartest, if you’re an authoritarian, anti-firearm zealot as you can arbitrarily ban something on the most superficial of reasons. We’ve seen numerous decisions from Australian Police over the past few years which just reek of authoritarianism. The Ruger Precision Rifle vs WA Police and Tasmania Police, Australian Border Force and it’s banning of the Riverman OAF, Victoria Police and the Verney Carron-Speedline, WFA1 etc, and the list goes on.
There’s never any succinct definition of what constitutes a “military firearm”– there’s never a calibre or action or the like, it’s always “substantially replicates or duplicates” – which in itself is an incredibly vague and misleading definition, and open to abuse. And the fact that none of the firearms being banned are issued to any military in the world, gives the game away.
The fact that the Mosin-Nagant and variants thereof, a rifle that has killed more people historically than any other “military” firearm, remains legal yet other bolt action rifles which have a tactical stock are instantly consigned to the banned list, just shows you how frankly stupid Australia has become.
Police do themselves no favours enforcing laws like this, but what do you expect from organisations that praise themselves for acquiring M4’s, yet ensure the law abiding public doesn’t get anywhere near one under any circumstances?
Appearance laws have got to go – they’re a total embarrassment. And if Australian Police want to get in the business of making laws, then put your jobs up for public vote or forever hold your peace.
We’re a democracy, not a Police state.