There has been immediate condemnation of the findings of a report into Australia’s gun laws, commissioned by Gun Control Australia.
The report, authored by Philip Alpers, an associate professor of public health at the University of Sydney, claimed that Australia's tough gun laws had been significantly watered down by state governments since they were introduced under the National Firearms Agreement in the days after the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.
As well as vehemently disagreeing with its findings, which they say was written by a well-known anti-gun author, shooters’ lobby groups and politicians were scathing at the timing of its release, in the days succeeding the worst mass shooting in modern America’s history.
The report claimed all Australian states had succumbed to pressure from gun owners or the parties that represent them to water down some aspects of the agreement, criticising Queensland especially for diluting the ban on high-powered semi-automatic weapons.
The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia said the NFA was non-binding, serving to guide states and territories on the firearm laws they were ultimately responsibility for.
“State and territory government have adapted the NFA to suit the unique circumstances of each jurisdiction,” a spokesman said. “The circumstances in outback Queensland are vastly different from inner city Sydney.”
He described the report as using fear to sensationalise the reality of Australia’s gun laws and allowing radical fringe group to dictate policy on the basis of fear and emotion.
Shooters Union Australia’s vice president, David Brown said it was not expert research by any means.
“It’s rather ironic that for many years, GCA have promoted the Australian laws as world’s best, but now they are saying because the states have always had their own variations on a theme, that we are not.
“This is hypocritical, to say the least.”
As an example of what he saw as a nonsensical statement, he pointed out that Mr Alpers said some states weren’t compliant because they allow firearm training to unlicensed people.
“What a surprise – pilots are not licensed before they are trained and tested – why would firearms be any different.”
He said this clearly demonstrates a complete lack of understanding by GCA of anything to do with gun safety.
Mount Isa MP Robbie Katter said gun lobby groups from Sydney had absconded from any constructive dialogue towards improving firearm safety.
“They’ve descended to the lowest common denominator in this debate and weak politicians are falling in line,” he said.
Mr Katter said the report itself offered little substance regarding reducing gun violence or the illegal importation of weapons in to Australia.
“Queenslanders need firearms laws that are relevant to us,” he said.
“Queenslanders will not be bullied by some dodgy report out of Sydney that demonises our great state and trashes our commitment to the National Firearms Agreement.
“Our constitution requires each state and territory maintain their own gun registry and share that information, so in a way we already have a national gun register.”
As far as watering regulations down, Mr Katter said no-one knocked on his door telling him things were simpler or safer.
“Laws relating to firearm ownership in the state of Queensland are quite complex and not all are contained in the Weapons Act – as a result the subject matter requires thorough research.
“For example, the requirements about obtaining ammunition and the amount a person is legally allowed to purchase falls under the Department of Mines and Energy in Queensland.
“As with all other explosives there are clear limitations of what a person can own or purchase.”
He said the illicit importation and use of guns in to Australia was a greater concern than persecuting legal firearm owners.
It was a similar message from the SSAA, with over 65,000 members in Queensland, who encouraged GCA and its friends to “focus on the criminal misuse of illegal firearms rather than continuing to harass law-abiding firearm owners, for no public safety benefit”.
Queensland Police Minister, Mark Ryan, was asked for the government’s point of view but has not responded to date.
Points the report said Queensland was falling down on, and the Shooters Union response:
- Firearm licensing proof of identity and photographic identification procedures are less stringent – Shooters Union cannot find any evidence to support this claim, and if there were some, it would be of no consequence. QPS is clearly satisfied.
- The 10-year licence validity period for category A and B is double that agreed in the NFA – Shooters Union believes this efficiency initiative proves that this is not a safety risk, as any new risk involves licence revocation anyway. Irrelevant to public safety.
- Category C weapons may be stored in the minimum security conditions for category A and B – Storage requirements for A,B or C have proven not to be an issue. The use of the word minimum is designed to install fear in the readers mind.
- Production of a valid firearm licence is not mandatory for the purchase of ammunition – Simply not true, perhaps they should have read the Explosives act.
- Authorises the possession of a pistol or revolver during the first six months of a handgun licence – There is 6 months of training requirement built into the pre licence issue process.
- Specifies in legislation no limit on the quantity of ammunition which may be purchased – Ammunition needs vary greatly, and there is no statistical proof this would be helpful in terms of public safety, let alone the recording process costs for no gain.