ZURICH (Reuters) – Friction between Switzerland and the European Union over the bloc’s plans to tighten gun control following a rise in militant attacks could turn into another serious snag in ties already tested by Swiss efforts to curb immigration.
The proposed directive, which applies to non-EU member Switzerland only because it is part of Europe’s Schengen open border system, has raised hackles among the Swiss, who resent intervention from Brussels.
Christoph Blocher, a leading voice of the Swiss right and a eurosceptic, says Switzerland should consider abandoning Europe’s Schengen system of passport-free travel if the Swiss people rejected the proposed measures in a referendum.
Drafted after militants killed scores in attacks in Paris last year, the EU plans on gun control aimed to curb online weapons sales and impose more restrictions on assault weapons.
But the initial proposal provoked an outcry in Switzerland because it meant a ban on the long Swiss tradition of ex-soldiers keeping their assault rifles.
Then, two months ago, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga returned from meetings in Brussels saying she had successfully negotiated against such a ban. But the fine print was more complicated: EU members demanded concessions including psychological tests and club membership.
Swiss gun rights proponents are now complaining this could disarm thousands of law-abiding citizens and that it would encroach on Switzerland’s heritage and national identity that includes a well-armed citizenry.
“When conflicts arise, Switzerland must put its sovereignty first,” said Blocher, a businessman and vice president of the SVP, which is the country’s biggest party. “In an emergency, Switzerland should be ready to exit Schengen.”
A man carries a EU flag, after Britain voted to leave the European Union, outside Downing Street in London, Britain June 24, 2016.Neil Hall/Reuters
Switzerland has one of the highest rates of private gun ownership in Europe, with nearly 48 percent of households owning a gun. In France, there are about 30 weapons per 100 people, while the figure in the Great Britain is far lower, at 6.7 guns per 100 civilians, according to the Australian-based think tank GunPolicy.org.
However, Swiss gun-related crime is low and the high number of privately owned guns harks back to a long tradition of self-defence and to the Swiss policy of near-universal conscription.
In 2015, 11 percent of the 20,600 soldiers who left the Swiss Army opted to keep their assault rifles which upon departure are modified to fire single shots. The number of soldiers choosing to keep their weapons has been declining for several years.
Switzerland’s grassroots gun lobby ProTELL, named after the 14th-century folk hero William Tell, said it will take the matter to voters if the European gun restrictions result in stricter ownership standards on Swiss soil.
Under Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, groups like ProTELL can gather signatures and put such matters before voters.
“With our direct democracy, Swiss people are accustomed to having the last word,” said ProTell’s Dominik Riner. “We’re opposed to any and all efforts to make current weapons laws more restrictive.”
The gun control issue comes as Switzerland’s EU ties are strained on multiple fronts.
The two sides are negotiating immigration curbs after Swiss voters in 2014 backed quotas on European workers. A failure to agree could mean the collapse of bilateral accords with Swiss’ main trading partner.
Outlines of any deal may emerge when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker visits on Sept. 19, but the clock is ticking: Switzerland has said it may enact unilateral curbs by February 2017.
Europe plans to finalize its gun directive later this year.
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Bacynska in Brussels; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky).
Canberra shooting groups are calling for a change to ACT laws that allow firearm permits to be refused based on the appearance of a gun, rather than its function.
A Canberra man this week had a permit refused for a large hunting rifle as it resembles a military weapon.
The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT) ruled the Barrett M98B .338 Lapua Magnum bolt-action rifle met technical specifications for a permit, but too closely resembled a weapon designed for military use.
David Eichner took the matter to the ACAT after the ACT Firearms Registry refused his permit application on a range of different grounds.
He applied for the weapon for “target shooting and recreational hunting”.
The registry initially found it resembled a military weapon and its pistol-grip was not allowed.
It also found the ammunition required for the weapon was too large for ACT shooting ranges and there were no properties large enough within the ACT for the rifle to be used to hunt.
The ACAT found the only real contention was the appearance of the firearm, seeking advice from a firearms expert within the NSW Police Force.
It agreed with the expert that the firearm closely resembled a military weapon, and should therefore be refused under the ACT Firearms Act.
“The tribunal is satisfied that the .338 Lapua Magnum rifle is a firearm that substantially duplicates in appearance (regardless of calibre or manner of operation) a self-loading centre-fire rifle of a kind that is designed or adapted for military purposes,” it found.
David True from the Sporting Shooters Association of the ACT said it was a puzzling decision.
“Because they’re black, and they look like a military-type firearm, perhaps maybe that’s the reason why they’re knocking them back,” he said.
He said regulations should measure firearms solely on their function, not their appearance.
“I believe it’s nonsense,” he said. “Because the firearm is still a bolt-action firearm, it’s not a rapid-fire firearm by any means.”
Ozzie Reviews is an Australian YouTube channel dedicated to reviewing firearms and equipment that is available here in Australia. The idea behind the channel is to attract more and more law-abiding people to shooting and the enjoyment of the outdoors in general. I have had enough of the emotion based anti-gun agenda that punishes the law-abiding shooter and I hope to encourage more of you to enjoy firearms as a sport, hobby or profession… Together we can spread the truth about law-abiding firearm ownership, so please subscribe today and help me become a voice for Australian shooters!
Recently, Ozzie Reviews interviewed Shooters Union President, Graham Park to gain a better understanding of we stand-for.
Transcript of Interview
Ozzie: All right, guys, we’re here with Graham Park, the President of the Shooters Union. I’ve had the privilege of being invited to sit down with him. What we’re going to do is just a pretty relaxed, casual review on the Shooters Union just to answer a lot of questions because there’s still a lot of you out there that are wondering about the Shooters Union, don’t know a lot about it, so we’re just going to clear up some of the myths about it in this interview and just talk generally about it.
Graham, thanks first of all for your time, mate.
Graham: Thanks for having us on Ozzie Reviews. We love Ozzie Reviews. We keep watching all the reviews. How else do I know about the new gun to buy? I have to justify it, so I watch Ozzie Reviews.
Ozzie: We sure appreciate it. If we could just start for people who don’t know: How was the Shooters Union started and why was it started?
Graham: It was started in a period of frustration about probably, I don’t even remember when, 8 or 9 years ago. We’re getting close to 10 years ago now. We started with just the frustration that it seemed to be we’d been so badly insulted and demonized in 1996 by the government of that time. Since then, we felt that firearm owners and users were just not getting the respect. We go through a lot of licensing. Law-abiding legitimate users of firearms, be they occupational, sport, or whatever, go through a lot of hoops, legally and everything else. Any other field where you went through so much training, so much licensing, you’d be treated with respect, and shooters aren’t and weren’t, and we got very mad about that. So a group of us, notably, a lady named Jan Linsley who is a World Champion Female Silhouette Shooter or has represented Australia a number of times in silhouette shooting, she got a group of us together and formed Shooters Union. We first formed it in Queensland, and now we have Shooters Union Australia, and we also have separate branches in New South Wales, so there’s a Shooters Union New South Wales, a Shooters Union West Australia, and Shooters Union Australia represents people in other states. In Queensland it’s also an approved club for your license and everything else.
Ozzie: Okay. Is it just in Queensland that it’s an approved club at this stage?
Graham: Now in New South Wales it’s also an approved club, and West Australia under their hunting rules. We actually have two branches in West Australia, and one’s under the hunting rules and one isn’t. Their laws are quite different, but essentially in those three places we can be a reason for people to gain a license. Specifically in Queensland, we’re a reason for category A, category B, and category H firearms to use them, and I believe that’s the same in New South Wales. In Western Australia it’s only A and B.
Ozzie: There’s a lot of people that I know, for example, in the hunting fields who have no interest to go to a range, none whatsoever. So for people like that, I would imagine that would be quite an attraction.
Graham: If we took our membership and broke it down, our biggest group is that hunting/recreational shooter. The hunting is a big part of our membership. In fact, Queensland residents can get a category R New South Wales hunting license by being a member of Shooters Union Queensland, and obviously New South Wales ones can as well because there’s a lot of equipment Queensland do have across the border in New South Wales, and they can do that on public lands. They have to do some extra things other than just membership.
Ozzie: Okay. For people who are watching this at home, for someone new into shooting or someone who’s been into shooting for a little while, what would be the benefits of them becoming a member of the Shooters Union?
Graham: The biggest benefits to me is that we are out there every day standing up for legitimate users and owners of firearms, and that’s the biggest thing. We’re a voice for legitimate users of firearms, be they farmers, be they in the security or the police, be they in the sporting field. We don’t mind if it’s occupational or whatever, and that I guess differentiates a bit from the sporting groups who would do a great job, but they’re specific on their sporting disciplines. We’re not. We basically support any legitimate use of firearms. Our job is to go to bat for firearm users, politically, in the media, any way we can.
I guess the biggest benefits a lot of our members see is they see it’s very inexpensive at $30 a year to join, they get 10 million dollars’ worth of liability insurance, so if they’re out hunting and god forbid had some sort of accident, whether they’ve injured an animal on a property owner’s place or even a person, there’s 10 million dollars’ worth of liability insurance. The same at a range. If they’re at a range and something happens, that 10 million dollars is there. If they’re engaged in legal activity, they’ve got 10 million dollars’ worth of liability. It’s also a legal reason to have your license.
Ozzie: Yeah, so it’s your genuine reason.
Graham: Yeah, it’s your genuine reason for the government. The other thing, I guess, is you get regular updates and things like that. And if you’ve got a problem, we have an office you can call and get assistance with different things.
Ozzie: From my understanding, from what I’ve seen, you guys are trying to kick off at the moment with funding to get a range put down in New South Wales. My understanding is (as it stands at the time of doing this interview anyway) if someone has a category H license, even though Shooters Union don’t have any ranges as such, they can still have a genuine reason to have a pistol license with the current category H laws. Then when they just simply compete at a competition at another range, they can simply be written off for one mandatory competition out of the six per year for Queensland, for example.
Graham: In Queensland what you can do if you join a Shooters Union and you do the category H part as well, you then just go to clubs, and we have a number that are happy to receive our members, and our office can give you a list if there’s one near you. There’s clubs everywhere that are quite happy to see visitors, and you go as a visitor and shoot, and you can do all of your attendances through those clubs. You just keep a record the same. All the other bookkeeping is the same, but we do have quite a few ranges that we affiliate with.
Ozzie: That’s fantastic. Most of the guys know at home I’ve promoted Shooters Union a lot because I believe in what you guys stand for.
Graham: We love it that you guys are life members, and we really appreciate that.
Ozzie: Yeah. That’s the thing. I don’t take that lightly. I made the decision, thought about it, and put the money aside to do it, because as most people know, I’m fairly active in trying to promote, like you guys, responsible shooting sports and responsible firearm owners in general. I was in the same boat where I started to think: Occupational-wise, everyone knows I do feral pest control. Who’s out there at the moment fighting for me to be able to at least keep a category H handgun? Just like for the farmers here in Queensland.
Graham: Yeah. That’s why we’ve been working closely with farming groups on that, and even to the point of in fact promoting rallies they’re doing and things, because they really are not getting a fair go from the government, and neither are people in pest control and other things that are critical. This country is losing 720 million dollars a year to feral animal destruction, and it’s getting worse. We need to be doing something about it, and guys like you that get out and do feral animal control, it’s critical to the future of the ecology of this country, and to put hurdles in your way is just crazy to our way of thinking.
Ozzie: Yeah. Mate, I’ve had that frustration, and some of the viewers on my channel know about the frustration. It takes a long time. A lot of people say: “Hey, Ozzie, how do I go about getting a category C or a D license?” The first thing I say to them is: “Don’t expect it next week.” It’s a long, arduous process. Whilst I appreciate and understand there’s a need for vetting people and public safety, absolutely, but the simple process to me, in my personal view, is just too longwinded, there’s too much red tape, and a lot of the time I find especially on the occupational side, we don’t have any voice. That’s why I turned to the Shooters Union, to get some sort of voice.
Graham: That’s why we go on panels and we’ve been on both State Government panels and Federal Government panels looking at the National Firearms Agreement. We’re currently on the Police Minister’s forum in Queensland. We’re always out there working constructively with government. Whilst we don’t always agree with the law, we want to sit down and air our point of view, and have situations or examples we can give, and work with other groups to constructively come across with what we think, and more sensible laws that protect public safety, but on the other hand don’t get in the way of either sporting or occupational activities.
Ozzie: Yeah. Exactly right. Where would you like to see Shooters Union? I know in the last few years it has grown. I’m meeting a lot more people that say to me: “How do I join the Shooters Union?” Even if they’re a member of another organization because they simply believe in what you guys are fighting for.
Graham: We did a survey, and more than half of our members are members of other organizations as well. We think that’s really healthy. I know I, myself, I’m a member of probably four or five. People say: “Why would you be anything outside of Shooters Union?” I say: “Well, I’m local pistol clubs, I’m this, and that,” because of different competitive things that will happen. I think it’s very healthy. We just want people to get behind legitimate firearm owning and use, sports, but also to get out there.
There’s a million licensed shooters in this country, that’s adult-aged people who vote. A million votes. Look at the election we just had, how close it was. They’re still deciding it weeks afterwards in the Senate. Look how close it was. What would a million votes do? You would change the direction of government. Really, shooters sometimes we’re our own worst enemy because we’ll vote for people that are really not our friend. I think we’ve got to get a lot savvier. This election, this last federal election is the first time since 1996 we’ve seen a big shift of shooters starting to vote more, and the Senate has changed because of that, and the next Queensland election and the next New South Wales election in particular, I think we can make a huge, huge difference.
Ozzie: Yeah, I agree.
Graham: In a positive way by supporting positive candidates that support sensible, common sense firearm laws.
Ozzie: I know a lot of people. I looked at the Senate results. Even at the time we’re doing this review, it’s still not fully been counted. However, when you look at the Senate results and who’s voted for Katter Party; the Liberal Democrats; Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party; One Nation – I understand there’s people that may have voted for those parties who might not just be into shooting or might not be into shooting altogether; however, you add up the numbers and like you say, there is a massive shift that’s gone away from the majors.
Graham: Oh, huge.
Ozzie: Because everything, even in the last few years since I’ve had to… I’ve had no choice. I’ve had to become political. I’ve had to stand up, I’ve had to go meet local members and promote other shooters to do it. You really get an appreciation then for just how much ingrained into a lot of these politicians how bad guns are to them. They don’t care whether it’s used for sporting or whatever, don’t care, just negative. But then you have a handful that are good. In general, that’s where I think shooters need to be aware of, like you say, who they’re voting for. They really need to understand who they’re voting for.
Graham: They really do. In this last election we’ve seen a real downsizing for the Greens, where they’re extremist anti-firearms and anti-outdoor recreation, really, of any sort, and anti-farmer views across the board. They’re totally extremist, and we’ve seen their vote just drop through the floor. They just had a double dissolution Senate, and what that means apart from the political gobbledygook, it should have been twice as easy for them to get a Senate, and they’ve got less. Yet, groups like One Nation, Liberal Democrats, or Shooters and Fishers have done better. What that’s showing is that the tide is turning. There are a lot of people that might not just be on the firearms, but there’s a lot of related issues that people are sick of extremist views like that.
Ozzie: Yeah. I’ve said to a number of people that really a lot of shooters are the biggest conservationists you’ll come up against.
Ozzie: Because they’re not out there wanting to kill native wildlife, they’re out there trying to eradicate feral pests so that the native wildlife have a chance of actually growing back and breeding in numbers, and putting that balance and harmony back.
I personally think and I may be a bit optimistic, but I’m really confident in the future of what it has in hold for shooters in Australia because what we’ve seen with the secrecy with the whole National Firearms Agreement, for example, I think really that’s got a lot of shooters up off the couch who historically thought: “Oh, no, we’ll be all right. They’ll never take what we’ve got.” Then they’ve seen all these proposals and so forth for lever action firearms, and not just shotguns.
Graham: It was not just shotguns. We saw that on paper.
Ozzie: Yeah. This is the sort of thing. I think a lot of shooters had a wakeup call.
Ozzie: Graham, what would you like to tell people who are watching this, with Shooters Union, where would you like to see it grow and develop to, and where would you like to see it eventuate in years to come?
Graham: Our goal is to get as large as we can, obviously, but we have had an informal goal, within 10 years we’d like to see Australia-wide 100,000 members. We doubled our membership in the last 12 months, and a lot of that had to do with the NFA that you were talking about because of that secrecy, because of the silliness surrounding an old design like a lever action shotgun. Hello? An 1887 design that we’re talking about as new technology? If it wasn’t so serious, it’d be funny.
Ozzie: Exactly, yeah.
Graham: We want to see that grow, not for the sake of Shooters Union. Of course we have that as a goal. What we really want to see, our goal is just to see improved firearm laws, and sensible, that cater to people in the sporting occupation in a sensible matter, and we have good vetting so we don’t have idiots out there. We don’t want that because that hurts all shooters, but get rid of some of the ridiculous things. We’d like to see them get rid of the registration of category A and B firearms at least, immediately. It’s been proven over and over overseas not to work. Canada and New Zealand both dropped it, and they’re the closest cultural countries to us shooting-wise. Everyone always talks about the evil America with all the guns. It’s a very different culture. Whereas Canada and New Zealand, they’re much closer actually. New Zealand especially. Why did those countries get rid of things like…? Because it’s so expensive and it takes away from policing.
What we want to do is focus the laws on punishing people who commit crimes with firearms.
We believe: Steal a gun, go to jail. Why is it that around this country that we cannot find a politician that wants to stand up and support: Steal a gun, go to jail? Yet, they turn around and beat us shooters over the head and say: “All these illegal guns come from being stolen.” Which is not true. I was in a Senate inquiry, speaking and working with it, and it’s like 2% of guns that ends up being used in crime comes from being stolen; it’s tiny. If you look how we’re beaten over the head in the media, and especially by the extremist groups like Gun Control Australia or the Greens about gun theft – guess what? I agree, we should punish people that steal guns. What’s wrong with that? Why doesn’t any political party from any side want to support that? From the Greens through to the Nationals we have not come across a political party other than Katter’s that wants to support that. We believe that, we believe if you commit a crime of violence using a firearm, double the sentence.
Graham: Make it severe. It’s got to be a discouragement. But for the people like you that are out there doing stuff, or me at a sporting club, leave them alone. Vet them, make sure they’re safe, and then leave them alone, but help protect them. We’ve got safes, we’ve got alarms. We have all this protecting our guns to keep them from the bad guys.
Ozzie: Yeah, precautions.
Graham: It’s in our interest, they cost a lot of money, apart from any public safety thing. We want to do the right thing, but my goodness, we should be given some help legally. In Queensland, really, you’ll get in no more trouble in court for stealing a firearm than you will a television set. That seems to me insane.
Ozzie: Yeah, absolutely. Going down that line, mate, what sort of things would you like to see with regards to the laws, I’m just putting it out there, like different recategorization, abolishment of registration, being able to legally use suppressors? All those sort of things, is that something Shooters Union is pressing and fighting for?
Graham: Yes, that’s all the things we would like. Sometimes we do get criticized: “Why didn’t you go after this? Why didn’t you go…?” Honestly, it’s a bit of a priority thing. You’ve got to go after things and work where there’s some hope of getting a result. I think that’s important, and where it affects more people.
The registration thing is the biggest single cost to the tax payer, where police officers around this country, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of police officers could be retasked to actual crimes instead of doing paperwork by getting rid of that. Evidence is overwhelming that it would make no difference as far as crime, and that’s why other countries got rid of it. That’s one big thing.
We’d like to see longer terms of licenses just to reduce that red tape again. As far as recategorization, we really think most of the categorization of firearms is a waste of time. It’s about the people, not the firearm.
Ozzie: Yeah, I agree.
Graham: Once again, Canada and New Zealand have a more sensible approach where they take the common firearms that are used in sporting, or by farmers, or pest controllers and they categorize them all together, and then they take off to the side handguns, or military staff semi-automatics, and they keep those off to the side much more restricted. That, I think, would be more cost effective and more public health benefit effective to this country. We’ll work with anyone on those types of issues.
Things like suppressors, I know people keep bringing it up – look, nearly all of Western Europe you don’t need to have a license for them; they’re just like buying a hammer. In fact, in the Scandinavian countries, you have to use them at many of the ranges. New Zealand there’s no restriction on them. The United States restricts them and they license them. They’re more heavily restricted than Europe or somewhere else, which surprises a lot of people with the US, but it’s true. Canada is pretty restrictive on them, somewhat similar to the US, maybe even a bit stricter. There’s varying regimes, but once again, there’s no evidence that it makes any difference because they don’t actually silence things.
Ozzie: Yeah, exactly.
Graham: They make them quieter. Since it’s mostly shooters watching this, if you put a suppressor on a .223, it’ll probably be about as noisy as a .22 magnum when you’re done. It really becomes a workplace safety issue, especially for pest controllers and maybe farmers. Also, as farms get more built up, it’s an issue with just disturbing people.
Ozzie: Yeah, very much so.
Graham: You’re not disturbing people when they’re out doing pest control. I would like to see sensible natures, things around that. New South Wales does seem to have taken a step in that direction recently.
Ozzie: It is very frustrating. Even for me, I have colleagues who work in pest control in New South Wales and they can use them. I don’t even have the option here in Queensland, and it’s frustrating because I’ve had clients before want me to do pest control on their property where I’m looking at using a .223 or something like that, and I can’t because of just simply when you go, you first have a look and survey the land, you see different neighbours around, and you just think: “Look, this isn’t going to work.” It’s just not going to work. This sort of thing is a problem, in my view anyway, and we need someone who’s speaking out about those sort of things.
Look, mate, I personally, as most people know obviously, I’ve been a life member of the Shooters Union. I joined it because I wanted representation. I’m constantly receiving email updates from you guys with what’s going on, and painting the picture with what we need to know as shooters and what we can also do as well. Personally, I’d like to thank Shooters Union and yourself for that. I’d like to encourage people who are watching this: If you have any questions, if you want to know anything more, they can log on to the website obviously, Shooters Union Queensland.
Graham: Or our Facebook page, Shooters Union Australia Facebook page.
Ozzie: If you’re wanting a licence, you want to get a genuine reason, $30 a year, and you still get your liability insurance.
Graham: You couldn’t buy the insurance for that on its own normally. If you go to an insurance company and say: “Give me 10 million dollars’ worth of liability,” they’ll charge you a couple hundred bucks a year on your own. It’s the deal of the century.
One thing I’d like to say in closing is that people don’t realize Shooters Union is a bunch of volunteers. Yes, we have a couple of people in the office that get a little bit of money because we need them there all the time and they do an incredible job, but generally speaking, it’s volunteers and it’s really we’re on a shoestring. Most of the money we get in gets spent on media. We work with top media agencies and firms so that we can get the message back out into the mainstream media that shooting is a normal everyday sport for families, and it’s occupational, and it’s just another tool of trade, and it’s quite normal, which it is. A million people licensed around the country, it’s pretty normal.
Ozzie: Yeah, that’s right. Absolutely. All right, guys, look, I hope that answered a few questions about it. I’ve had a lot of questions about Shooters Union, that’s why we’ve tried to organize this. Graham’s been kind enough to invite me to his home and take up his time tonight, and get the information out there.
Mate, thanks again for all your help.
Graham: You’re welcome.
Ozzie: Let’s hope that Shooters Union grows in the future.
The government hasn’t outlawed sugar simply because it looks like cocaine, and if they were to do such a thing, most of us would agree that it is absolutely absurd. But, for the last sixteen years, guns which so much as LOOK like other guns have been banned, for no other reason than their appearance.
The Firearms Act 1996
The Firearms Act 1996 (Prohibited Firearms) strictly prohibits machine guns, sub-machine guns or any other weapon which is capable of propelling projectiles in rapid succession from just one pull of the trigger, along with self-loading shotguns and rifles. But, the Act goes on to also prohibit any firearm which ‘substantially duplicates in appearance’ any firearms listed as prohibited by the Act.
Representing thousands of firearm owners and enthusiasts across Australia, the Shooters Union is calling for a review of Item 6 of the Act, which prohibits firearms by appearance alone. Shooters Union believes that this does not, in fact, make the regulation of firearms any simpler – it adds a large degree of unnecessary subjectivity.
Unreasonable and Subjective
How much like a prohibited firearm does your gun need to look before it is prohibited? Are children’s toy guns also prohibited under this act? In order to meet the intentions of the agreement set out by the Firearms Act 1996, firearms are categorised according to their type, calibre and purpose of operation – not by their appearance.
Shooters Union is campaigning for a review of Item 6 as it is completely unreasonable to prohibit any item based on its appearance alone, without taking into account the purpose of the item. Banning a firearm on the sole grounds that it is similar in appearance to a prohibited firearm puts those who are complying with the Firearms Act 1996 at a disadvantage. Viewing owning a firearm which simply looks like another, regardless of how it is operated, as an offence, is absurd – especially when no criminal misuse has taken place.
Registered, Licensed Users Are Not a Danger
What is hoped to be achieved by the banning of firearms which resemble those that are prohibited? Will banning firearms that look like prohibited types actually contribute towards reducing violence in society? Have there been any problems with the misuse of firearms which look similar in appearance to those prohibited? These are all questions which the Shooters Union is asking in our quest to have this unreasonable legislation changed.
We believe that there is no danger in allowing an individual who has been thoroughly vetted and passed all of the necessary firearms checks to own and use a registered firearm of whatever category they have been approved to own, regardless of the appearance of the firearm itself. Once an individual has been permitted to hold a licence for a particular category of firearm, they should be expected to be able to use such firearms both safely and legally, regardless of whether the firearm in question looks similar to a prohibited gun.
Watch Shooters Union President, Graham Park discuss the issue of young shooters and why they should be trained in the proper supervision of handgun use from the age of 12.
Now, a new indoor gun range in Adelaide is causing controversy with critics concerned kids as young as 12 are being encouraged to shoot real guns.
But supporters argue it’s a positive place to learn about gun safety. Now, you be the judge.
The Gunnery in Adelaide South is the first in the country with virtual moving targets, as well as stationary ones. 12-year-old Louise is an avid sporting shooter, and already has her gun license.
I definitely think it’s safe because of all the rules you have to follow.
Louise is the daughter of range owner, Peter.
You’re never too young to be educated about guns, and the safety and the use of them.
Safety is a priority here. Anyone who doesn’t have a gun licence is strapped into a harness, anchored to the ground, with their gun tethered. There’s also an overseeing instructor. Like many ranges across the country and in line with the law, children as young as 12 can shoot, providing they’re supervised by a parent or guardian, but locals are divided.
I think it should be at least 18, because why would we want 12-year-olds playing with guns? There’s no need for it.
I don’t really have a problem with it. I’m excited to go in there. It seems like something new and different.
The Council gave the range the green light after consultation with police. Graham Park from the Shooters Union of Australia and Samantha Lee from Gun Control Australia join us now. Morning to you both. Samantha, The Gunnery owner says if children want to learn to shoot, he’s providing an educational and safe environment. Now, what do you say to that?
This is straight out of American gun culture book, it’s trying to normalize gun culture here in Australia by allowing young people as young as 12 to access semi-automatic handguns. No doubt there’s an attraction for young people in these particular scenarios, linking computers and machines; however, this is about trying to indoctrinate kids here in Australia in relation to a gun culture.
Graham, you can’t get L-plates for a car until you’re 16 or 17, but you can get a shooter’s license at 12. Why do children as young as 12 need to know how to shoot a gun? I say this as a farmer’s daughter, who I accept that some people can own guns and should own guns, but why does as 12-year-old need to know how to shoot a gun?
Thank you for having me on. Well, with over a million licensed shooters in Australia, there’s lots of people out there that it is a very normal sport and activity, and so it seems to me a very rational thing that you’d want young people to be trained safely. Just as we begin training people young in other sports, we do so with shooting. The reason they have what they call a minor’s license is so that they can do that under direct supervision. They can’t own a gun, they can’t take it out on their own. They have to be with the supervision of an adult who has a full license, so I think it’s a very good thing. Shooting is a very normal part of Australian society, and I don’t believe it’s helpful to compare it with radically different cultures.
Yeah. Samantha, supporters of shooting argue that it’s no different to many other sports, like archery or javelin at Little Athletics or something like that. What do you say to that?
Well, guns are designed to kill, that is the difference. A football isn’t. What we need is sensible gun laws here in Australia. In terms of our National Firearms Agreement, you’re actually not meant to access a firearm until you’re 18 years of age; however, state and territories have watered down their gun laws in each jurisdiction, which means that particularly in Western Australia, there is no age limit in relating to accessing firearms.
So you don’t have a problem with gun ranges or shooting as a sport, it’s just the age that you start?
Look, we’re into sensible gun regulation, and what that means is ensuring that young people are protected from things that harm them. As pointed out, we don’t allow them access to alcohol, cigarettes, medicines, cars until they’re 18, but we allow them to access semi-automatic handguns when they’re 10 or 12 and it just does not make sense.
Graham, this is a very emotive issue in the world right now. We look at Nice, we look at Baton Rouge. Are you fighting an uphill battle to convince people that there is a place for shooting in society?
Not at all. It’s a vibrant and growing sport, and especially young people really enjoy it. It’s extremely safe, as evidenced by the fact that the insurance rates, which they’re the guys that seem to know the risks involved better than anyone, the insurance rates are extremely low, lower than for almost any other sport for liability-type issues on ranges because of that and because of the level of supervision that you saw in your little one-minute clip earlier with people either under direct supervision or actually being physically restrained from even being able to do anything. So I don’t know that that really fulfills the thing of people out running around with things. I think it’s providing a safe environment for people to learn and understand about firearms, rather than the silliness they see on entertainment TV which is filled with violent misuse of firearms.
Okay. All right. Thank you to you both. An interesting discussion. Appreciate both points of view.
We continue our fight to restore the rights of Queensland farmers, who face being treated like criminals just for doing their jobs.
Earlier this year Shooters Union became aware of a change in the treatment of farmers applying for renewals to their Category H (handgun) licences, which are used in primary industry. These are mostly for the humane destruction of feral animals or stock, particularly where carrying a rifle is not practical or safe. We were told at the time there had been no changes in the treatment of these applications but then, in May, the Police Minister let the cat out of the bag: the state government are opposed to farmers using handguns to do their job.
Why does this matter?
Shooters Union supports sensible laws for the licensing, storage and usage of firearms, and an effective ban on handguns for farmers is far from sensible. Most farmers need a firearm to do their job, and many of those need a handgun to address specific physical, environmental or safety factors. If the government wishes to change the rules, they should take it to Parliament for debate, not sneak it in through the back door.
Let’s look at the Minister’s arguments:
“A rifle is the preferred weapon to be used for the destruction of sick or injured beast.”
FACT: Common sense tells us the calibre of firearm is the most important factor, not its length. Indeed, at close range a low velocity large calibre is far safer, and this is best done with a hand gun. In many cases, it is impractical or unsafe to carry a rifle (e.g. climbing into a stock truck).
CLAIM: “Since 2000, in excess of 800 handguns have either been lost or stolen in Queensland.
FACT: Less than 20 handguns are stolen each year, according to the government’s own statistics. Agricultural properties account for less than 10 per cent of all victims. There is no evidence theft from farms is the source of many stolen handguns, if any at all.
CLAIM: “There are many applications out there which are dubious or have question marks about them.”
FACT: There is no evidence to suggest there have been applications that have not met the regulatory requirements, and the suggestion otherwise is a slur on hardworking farmers. If farmers need guidance jumping through the many hoops of the licensing system, the government should be helping them, not labeling them as criminals.
CLAIM: “There are states such as New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania who have quite sophisticated grazing enterprises and there are no such licences in any of those jurisdictions.”
FACT: False. Farmers in other states do have access to handguns where required. More importantly, Queensland farmers have been operating responsibly, safely and effectively under rules unchanged for the past 20 years. Now, after decades without issue, these rules have been changed without consultation.
It is disappointing that decisions that affect the working conditions of Queensland farmers have been made without consulting farmers or their representatives. It is even more galling these changes are based on ‘concerns’, not facts.
Show the government you support a fair go for farmers. Contact your local member to tell them farmers should not be tied up in red tape, just to do their job.
You can find their contact details on our website here.
Below is an email that was sent by Grant Maudsley, the General President of AgForce, urging farmers and non-farmers to take to the streets in August to protest against the Government’s decisions regarding vegetation management as well as excessive and contradictory regulation. Please help us to support our Regional friends by including a large contingent of Shooters amongst their ranks.
As you would be aware, AgForce has been fighting hard on your behalf against proposed changes to vegetation management laws.
AgForce launched the ‘Fair Laws for Farmers’ campaign to give members an opportunity to get vocal in driving home the message that these ill-conceived laws will drive up food prices, shut down regional development and cost jobs.
Protest rallies in the regions have been generating some great media coverage, billboards have now gone up in key centres and the farmers’ videos we have been uploading on the website HERE and on the AgForce Facebook page have also been very well-received.
We are now preparing to take to the streets of Brisbane to protest against these laws and we want as many people as possible to get involved.
The protest rally we are planning for Brisbane will gather from 12 noon on Thursday 4 August at Queens Park (next to the Treasury Casino) to march from 12.30pm to Parliament House on the corner of Alice and George Streets.
We have chosen this day to coincide with the start of the Ekka – the time of the year that the country comes to the city.
As part of the planning process for the rally, AgForce is booking buses from nearby regional centres such as Kingaroy, Warwick (stopping off at Beaudesert on the way) and Gympie.
We are asking members to please register your interest for a free bus seat online HERE as soon as possible if you would be interested in coming on a bus to take part in the Brisbane rally.
Buses are also currently being considered for SIQ and SW members to depart from either Roma or Toowoomba, and for CQ members departing from Rockhampton.
We would encourage members to get together a group of people and travel down by car as well.
I’d also like to remind everyone that AgForce has a crowdfunding page to support the ‘Fair Laws for Farmers’ campaign. After some initial technical issues, the page is back up and running and accessible HERE. Thanks to all those who have contributed so far either via the crowdfunding page or directly to AgForce.
Farmers very rarely take to the streets to protest against Government decisions, and this is the first time in AgForce’s history that we have organised a march in Brisbane.
We want as many people as possible to come along and take part so the State Government gets the message that we are fed up, we are angry and we are not going to just meekly accept these changes.
Agriculture has always been one of the bedrocks of the state’s economy, and I firmly believe our industry has a bright future, but we need sensible land management laws if we are to reach our full potential.
This protest rally is all about telling the Queensland Government they can’t keep kicking us around and expect us to take it. Eighteen major changes and 38 amendments to vegetation management laws since 1999 is just ridiculous.
We’re not asking for much – we’re just asking for ‘fair laws for farmers’.
AgForce General President
The article is best summed up by her statement, “There is something entirely incongruent in exposing children to deadly weapons before they are allowed to drive, vote, or drink alcohol.”
She asks, in the context of adults needing a genuine reason to own a gun, ”…why then is there no “genuine reason” test applied when it comes to allowing people, particularly children, through the doors of shooting ranges?” She then states “Exposing children to the idea that shooting pistols is a recreational activity is the start of an insidious slippery slope.”
What makes this op-ed piece unsettling is it is wrong. It is an opinion based on the false premise that children cannot be responsible around guns. The truth is actually the opposite. The truth is why police support teaching gun safety in US schools. Google the phrase ‘study where children find gun’ and take a moment to read the results. What you will find is that children raised in homes with guns, where parents talked to them extensively about gun safety, were the only ones that did not touch the toy gun when it was found. The children whose parents had never exposed them to guns let their curiosity get the better of them. They touched it, looked down the barrel, and even aimed it at other children.
Lauren, I know how curious children can be. Teaching and protecting them from the dangers of the world is a parents duty. Sheltering them from those dangers only increases their curiosity.
When it comes to gun safety, your opinion goes against what is recommended by law enforcement officials. It even goes against the Yale study you probably discovered when doing the Google search. Therefore you are not entitled to this false opinion. To borrow a line from a Q&A segment I recently saw – I say that because if ‘entitled to an opinion’ means ‘entitled to have your views treated as serious candidates for the truth’ then it’s pretty clearly false.
In the spirit of education, I would like to invite you to a day at the gun range with me. You can contact me by calling 07 3221 2220. My shout. I will pay for your entry fee, ammunition and required safety gear. All you need to bring is a pair of closed-toe shoes and an open mind. Hopefully you will see the families I have seen at the range. Maybe you will see the young girl hitting the bullseye more times that her bratty older brother. Maybe you will see the young boy in the wheel chair outshoot his classmates. Either way it will be the smiles on their young faces and their responsible firearm competence that will hopefully make an impression on you.
Your article ends with the sentence, “There are so many activities for children and young people that there is no reason for them to enter a shooting range, unless they can meet the high standards of the genuine reason test.”
Perhaps you can consider that a child’s safety is genuine reason enough for a parent to begin teaching these lessons at an early age.
Two government agencies responsible for criminal intelligence, national information-sharing and supporting law enforcement have merged to become the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) as of July 1. The merger, which was first announced in November last year, means the Australian Crime Commission and CrimTrac now exist under the one super agency with investigative, research and information delivery functions.
The ACIC is responsible for national firearms services, including the Firearm Trace Program that allows law enforcement agencies to request illicit firearm traces. The program consolidates firearms information to create a national picture of firearm types located in the illicit market, along with the diversion methods.
The ACIC hosts the National Firearms Identification Database (NFID) to aid police in identifying and describing firearms consistently, along with the Australian Ballistic Information Network (ABIN), which is meant to help police match ballistic evidence from crime scenes across the country. The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) is currently investigating the benefits of ballistics databases on criminal investigations, with initial results obtained by the SSAA Legislative Action department showing bullet profiling to be an expensive failure.
The ACIC will also incorporate the National Firearms Interface (NFI) upon its completion scheduled for later this year, which aims to help police and other law enforcement agencies manage the registration, licensing and movement of firearms into Australia and across state and territory borders. The NFI is meant to include a single record of every firearm in Australia detailing every event in its history and was previously hosted by CrimTrac at a cost of $4.3 million. The NFI is aiming to support the ABIN database, which came at a cost of $5.6 million.
ACIC chief executive officer Chris Dawson said the new agency has a vision for “a safer Australia that is better connected, informed and capable of responding to crime and criminal justice issues…Through our investigative, research and information delivery services, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission will work with law enforcement to improve our collective ability to stop criminals exploiting emerging opportunities and perceived gaps in information.”
There are plans to incorporate the national crime and justice research centre, the AIC, into this new super agency at a later date.
The numbers from the July 2 Federal Election are still trickling in, with close contests and possible recounts in many electorates preventing the official declaration of all results in a timely fashion. With the Coalition claiming victory as the count wraps up, the SSAA Legislative Action (SSAA-LA) department will continue to analyse the political outcome for our recreation and bring our members the latest updates.
Amid the murky election results, one fact remains clear: the Australian Greens party has so far failed in its bid to increase representation in the lower house with just one MP elected – Adam Bandt from central Melbourne – and has even lost at least one senate seat – Penny Wright’s replacement, Robert Simms in South Australia. The party’s aim to substantially increase the usual 10 per cent share of the vote has fallen short and it appears that the Greens party is on track to record its worst Senate result since the 2004 election.
With the Greens’ outrageous firearms policy released in the dying days of the election campaign, the party lost at least one million votes from sporting shooters – and counting. Intertwined with its justice policy, the party revealed what the SSAA-LA already knew: Greens politicians would work to ban all self-loading handguns on the unfounded grounds that this would reduce firearm-related deaths and violent crime. In addition to this, the party would recategorise lever-action shotguns to Category C or D based on magazine size and non-existent public safety issues, and continue to perpetuate the myth that legitimate firearm owners somehow contribute to the threat of terrorism. The Greens party once again proved that it remains untrustworthy and undeserving of shooters’ votes. The election results thus far show fair-minded Australians have turned away from the politicking of the extreme Greens in recent times, with an appetite for change seeing votes directed towards other minor parties.
The final election week also saw a cynical campaign from Gun Control Australia with the unashamed use of Port Arthur murders survivor, Walter Mikac, as its political mouthpiece. The GCA’s advertisements questioning the need for the Adler A110 lever-action shotgun in an attempt to make legal importation and firearms ownership an election issue also failed to gain much traction. The SSAA-LA quickly responded with our own clever graphic, which was shared far and wide, thanks to our proactive members and the power of social media.
Also at time of writing, speculation around which senators will serve the full six-year term versus the three-year term was rife, with many analysts indicating that most of the elected Greens senators would only serve a half-term. This is based on how many first-preference votes are recorded for each candidate, with the Greens already making noises about how this will be decided.
No matter the final results from the July 2 polls, the SSAA-LA will be making contact with many of the newly elected and returned politicians to make representation about our recreation on behalf of our 180,000 members and the wider firearms community. We have already turned our focus to the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) pencilled for discussion this month. The ongoing review came to a standstill during the election campaign while the government was in caretaker mode, but we have still been active in ensuring this issue does not become left unresolved for our members.
With tumultuous and uncharted times ahead on the changing federal political landscape, the SSAA-LA will continue our endeavour to protect firearm owners’ interests and communicate our increasing political activities to our growing membership.