A new piece of draft legislation has been presented in the ACT legislative assembly that has a number of direct implications for law abiding firearm owners. Sure, sure, there is all the rhetoric about “public safety” and “consultation”, and even the usual lip service to LAFO’s with an acknowledgement “that the overwhelming majority of firearms users are law-abiding citizens.”
But then it gets interesting. According to Hansard for the Legislative Assembly for the ACT 14 September 2017, the bill was developed following recommendations from ‘several stakeholders’ including the Firearms Consultative Committee, ACT Police, the Rural Landholders Association, and supposedly firearms manufacturers in the ACT. Not firearms dealers, definitely not firearms owners, and not even any shooting sports or hunting organisations. In other words, not anyone who might argue against these proposals.
The introduction of this bill goes on to discuss the many “valid uses” of firearms in the community. Recreational hunting makes a notable absence from the list. Unsurprising really given the RLA’s difference of opinion on the management of Canberra’s rising deer population with the ADA, and other shooting organisations’ apparent abandonment of hunters.
It seems that not all of the amendments are currently available, presumably because they are still being discussed. What is known however is the following:
• Category A & B license holders who possess more than 10 firearms will be required to keep their firearms in a metal, brick, or concrete safe.
• A prohibition on centrefire rifle magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.
• Greater access to firearms and prohibited articles (Suppressors) in two instances.
• A prohibition on so called “credit card knives” and similar.
• Greater protections of criminal intelligence used by the registrar to inform decisions on licenses.
• Provision to make it easier for ACT firearms licensees to store their weapons in New South Wales, if that is where they work.
At first glance, the increase in safe storage requirements can seem like a good idea, after all who wants to see guns get stolen? But what is of concern is the line “The amendments make it clear to firearms owners what their responsibilities are in the ACT for possessing and storing firearms.”
Are we going to face another case similar to Tasmania’s proposed legislation where safe requirements were going to rival Fort Knox? Nothing would delight anti-gunners more than having a lawful firearm owner reduce the numbers of guns owned, simply because they can’t afford the dreams of delusional control freaks. Why can’t we have legislation that “makes clear” to legislators and law keepers their responsibility to target criminals? There is also the fact that of the nearly 20,000+ firearms legally owned in the ACT, only around 20-30 are stolen on average per year, and fewer still are reported to then be used in a crime. Hardly a justification for a dramatic increase in storage.
The prohibition on centrefire rifles with a magazine capacity of 10 rounds or more is particularly troubling. Single Action, or “Cowboy Action” shooting will be the most likely to suffer in this instance with many pistol calibre rifles being popular to almost exclusivity in the sport, and the majority (if not all) of these rifles have a tube magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds. The only other instance would be after market magazines for rifles that usually only take 3-5 rounds, but would be near impossible to police. Not to mention, that if you were to own a 30 round AR mag for a 7615 pump as an example, it is extremely unlikely that you would be able to recoup the small fortune that you invested in it in the first place as it would very quickly become a buyers’ market for such items.
The claim that this amendment will actually allow increased access to firearms and prohibited articles is quite astonishing to say the least. To start, it will allow for firearm instructors to be able to actually handle firearms that don’t belong to them for the purpose of instruction. This is a bit of a no-brainer really. It’s a bit hard to demonstrate technique or correct handling methods just by pointing and using verbal instructions. Quite frankly, that this even had to be included as an amendment shows just how broken these laws are.
But now here is the fun part: “Prohibited articles” What are these? Well, they’re talking about suppressors. After government contract shooters got caught out illegally using suppressors during ongoing Kangaroo culls, the government did what any organisation with an obligation to follow the law would do – they changed the law. They changed it specifically to allow for contract shooters to utilise suppressors while employed by the government. And now this dandy new amendment goes an extra step in making way to allow suppressors to conservation officers and veterinary surgeons for the purpose of euthanising native animals or livestock hit by a car. Yup. In fairness, I think that is just an example given. But here is the kicker: “The use of suppressors in these instances is important for environmental reasons as suppressors reduce the noise emitted from the firing of a firearm, causing less distress to an animal population and less noise pollution.”
Well, no kidding. Now given the scarcity of suppressors likely use by vets and rangers, how much noise pollution and distress are they really likely to cause? A fair metaphor is a Fly fart to a deaf bloke. If the government were really serious, they would legalise suppressors for all the firearm owners who shoot regularly. The target shooters, the recreational hunter, the land owners, and so on. But apparently we can’t be trusted with a device that only reduces noise output by 30Db from between 140-190Db on most centrefire cartridges.
The ban on credit card knives and other “bladed weapons that are disguised to look like innocuous items” is just pointless. It is already illegal to carry a knife in public without good reason. This is just another case of grasping at straws and making something illegal-er.
The final point is the protection of criminal intelligence and sensitive information. Don’t be mistaken. This doesn’t mean YOUR information. Securing the registry data and your details isn’t nearly as important as protecting snitches and informants. Don’t get me wrong, protecting people who feed information about criminal activities to police is important, but protecting lawful citizens should take precedence. Concerns about the registry being compromised have been raised numerous times, and calls for its abolition made nearly as many. Yet the Government remains steadfast in its commitment to storing your details, and not guaranteeing its safekeeping.
Finally, the storage of firearms in NSW if that is where you work. How this is also an issue is beyond me. You live in ACT, but you work in NSW with firearms. You have a safe in NSW, and your firearm is stored there with no one else able to access it. Job done. Existing legislation complicated this (like most legislation does), and we welcome its removal. Congratulations, you fixed something. Good job government.
So that is the current analysis of the proposed legislative amendments – they take a little bit more, and don’t really give anything back. And once again the ACT Labor Government have failed in understanding what consultation really means. Unelected bureaucrats, shadowy committees, and unnamed business do make up the bulk of stakeholders in this issue, but seem to have been given the opportunity to represent their own interests. Firearm Owners United consider this to be an unacceptable state of affairs and seek to give a voice to the law abiding firearm owners who will be negatively affected by the proposed legislation.
Firearm Owners United oppose the restrictions on magazine capacity, and urge restraint in the “clarifications” that will be presented on safe storage. We would also urge the government to take heed of their own evidence of the benefit of suppressors and legalise them for all law abiding firearm owners. The treatment of suppressors as crime inducing artefacts of evil is nonsensical. We advocate the increasing of border security to prevent illegal imports, but also encourage the government to address social issues related to criminal activity, rather than seeking the band-aid solution of increasing restrictions on inanimate objects.