Malcolm Turnbull declared a ban on a rapid-fire shotgun “set in stone” as he rejected Labor claims he was considering legalising it to get union-curbing legislation through the Senate.
The Prime Minister was also rejecting a deal from Liberal Democrat crossbencher David Leyonhjelm, who wanted the ban on the Adler 110 lever-action shotgun, which can fire seven shots, lifted.
In return Senator Leyonhjelm would back legislation to revive the Australian Building and Construction Commission, one of the triggers for the double-dissolution election.
Mr Turnbull declined to take the offer off the negotiating table earlier today.
But after goading by Labor that he was retreating from Liberal prime minister John Howard’s tough gun laws, Mr Turnbull entered Parliament to reject the charge.
“Let me be very clear: We stand by John Howard’s national firearms agreement. We’re proud of it,” the Prime Minister said.
He said the Adler gun was category A, which meant it was relatively easy to obtain, compared to weapons in categories B, C and D. There has to be a specific purpose to own a B firearm, and the C and D categories cover guns that are effectively illegal.
There had been a move to have the lever-action gun reclassified by state and Commonwealth justice ministers meeting under the Council of Australian Governments.
“Because agreement has not been reached, we put in place an import ban which expired in August this year. So we have renewed it and we have renewed it indefinitely,” Mr Turnbull told Parliament.
“But what that means of course is that ban is permanent, it is set in stone, unless it is amended. But it is there.”
The states, which regulate firearms, were still considering whether and how the Adler should be classified.
“So what we have done, what my government has done, is ensure that no Adler lever-action guns with more than five rounds can be imported in any category. They can’t be imported at all,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The fact is we stand by the national firearms agreement. We want it stronger.”
However, Senator Leyonhjelm today made clear Malcolm Turnbull’s horror morning might have been about nothing.
The senator, who has a special enjoyment in self-promotion, said he might still vote for the ABCC bill despite the Adler ban not being lifted.
He said he had been let down by the government, who he said had promised the shotgun would be allowed in after a “sunset clause” ended a temporary ban.
“It’s a matter of trust,” Senator Leyonhjelm told reporters.
He said, “I have been dudded on a deal.”
But he would continue to discuss legislation with the government, he said.
Earlier today, Mr Turnbull indicated the lifting of the gun’s prohibition was still on the negotiating table.
“I’m not going to speculate about negotiations with senators, I’m certainly not going to negotiate in advance,” the Prime Minister told reporters in Canberra.
“As you know, we don’t have a majority in the Senate, so we will be talking to all of the senators and seeking to secure their support for this important legislation.
“We believe we will win their support, and any negotiations will be with them.”
The government wants to end the 2016 political year with passage of the two industrial relations bills whose rejection triggered the double dissolution election — the ABCC legislation and the registered organisations legislation which would put trade unions under the same scrutiny as other bodies.
He would not want to anger any crossbencher in the Senate, where he needs nine of their votes to get the bills through.
And that would include upsetting Mr Leyonhjelm right at the start of their talks.
However, Mr Turnbull did salute the removal of rapid-fire weapons by former prime minister John Howard after the Port Arthur massacre and hailed Australia’s “rigorous laws on the regulation of firearms”.
He told ABC radio: “Following the Port Arthur massacre, as you know, John Howard took the lead and introduced the new firearms legislation.
“Thousands of guns were returned and destroyed and what we now have is very strict firearm laws and I think Australians when they watch, you know, the ABC News and see what happens elsewhere in the world are very thankful for John Howard and the Coalition for providing that leadership.”
Tony Abbott, who banned the shotgun as prime minister, tweeted his concerns today.
Gun control campaigners say tough new legislation that came in following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 hasn’t kept up with more modern guns such as the Adler.
The five-shot version of the weapon — which can pump out five bullets before being reloaded — can be legally purchased in Australia and is categorised as a ‘category A’ gun which has the least restrictions around ownership.
The eight shot version of the lever action shotgun is temporarily banned. But critics say it’s pointless banning one and not the other as the five shot can be easily — and legally — adjusted to fire 11 slugs, more than the version that is banned.
A petition to have all versions of the Adler banned, started by campaigners Gun Control Australia, has garnered 16,000 signatures.
But those calling for the ban to be lifted say the eight shot Adler falls outside the restrictions imposed by the 1998 National Firearms Agreement and any restriction is unwarranted.
Senator Leyonhjelm, who has campaigned loudly on the shotgun’s behalf, has allies in the Coalition, including Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie, a keen sporting shooter.
When the firearm was banned Senator Leyonhjelm accused the government of curtailing liberties by stealth.
“No evidence has been presented that lever action firearms pose any more risk than firearms currently available. This is simply an attack on the rights of law abiding firearms owners and is driven by fanatical gun haters,” he said.[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]This article was written by Malcolm Farr for news.com.au. A full link to the article can be accessed by clicking here: https://www.news.com.au/national/politics/malcolm-turnbull-wont-take-david-leyonhjelms-shotgun-demand-off-negotiating-table/news-story/112cf1177365d466b9c9f81fd12c79e9[/box]