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Letter from SU to Peter Dutton: RE Berika Black Ops Shotgun Ban

The Hon Peter Dutton MP
Minister for Home Affairs
Via e-mail
July 22, 2019

Dear Mr Dutton,
I am writing to you on behalf of Shooters Union Australia (representing Australia’s more than one million law-abiding firearms users) regarding the recent importation issues with the Berika SP-12 shotgun.

The shotgun, which is chambered for sporting 12 gauge shotshells and works on a manually operated straight-pull bolt, is classified as a Category A firearm in Queensland (and a number of other states), yet has been declared a prohibited import in its current form by Border Force due to
its alleged resemblance to an assault rifle.

What is even more concerning is a quantity of these shotguns had already been legally imported and then sold to licensed firearms owners – who obtained the appropriate permits to acquire from their state firearms registry – several months before Border Force apparently decided the firearm fell afoul of the appearance clauses in the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956.

We would like to know why this issue was not identified when the firearms were first imported into Australia?

They would have been accompanied by import paperwork and declarations clearly identifying the shipment as firearms – did no-one at Border Force inspect the shipment?

If not, why not?
And if so, why were concerns not raised at that point about whether or not the shotguns were a permissible import in that configuration?

We are told the importer has now spent approximately $30,000 out of their own pocket organising the minor cosmetic changes Border Force are requiring to make the shotgun suitable for import.

It is, we submit, entirely unacceptable for Border Force to approve something for import then change their minds several months later purely because of how the item looks – especially when it is something like a firearm, which is an expensive and involved purchase requiring police approval at State level as well.

We note this is not the first time Australia’s law-abiding firearms users have been affected by this issue either; we direct your attention to the Riverman OAF (Operator-Assisted Firearm) straight-pull rifle saga from last year when owners of that firearm (considered Category B in Queensland) found it retroactively banned by Border Force based purely on its appearance.

While we support Border Force’s efforts to keep our country safe from illegal firearms, we must question the public safety value in the continued existence of so-called ‘appearance laws’ in the Commonwealth gun import legislation.

Why, exactly, is a firearm’s appearance grounds for its banning or restriction? Who is such a law protecting?

On behalf of our members and the more than one million law-abiding firearms users in Australia, we ask you look into these situations as a matter of urgency and take steps to ensure shooters are not being punished by an emotion-based law which serves no safety benefit and only causes headaches for law-abiding Australians, adds costs to legitimate business, and increases the workload of Border Force personnel.

Yours sincerely,

Graham Park
President, Shooters Union Australia
0418 700 320 or president@shootersunion.com.au

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