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Ozzie Reviews Interview with Shooters Union President

ABOUT OZZIE REVIEWS:

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.

Graham:        Totally.

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.

Graham:        Yes.

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.

Ozzie:             Yeah.

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:        www.ShootersUnion.com.au.

Ozzie:             Yeah, okay. www.ShootersUnion.com.au. Find out the information, guys.

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.

Graham:        Thank you.

Ozzie:             No worries.

 

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