Administrative quagmire from Queensland Police Service is costing small businesses across the state hundreds of thousands of dollars every month and throwing their viability and livelihoods into jeopardy.
The police Weapons Licensing Branch, responsible for administering the state’s firearms registry, are currently taking more than six months to process new firearm licence applications and more than a month on average for permits for licensed people to purchase a new gun.
Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park said Permit To Acquire (PTA) processing time frames had blown out from a few days last year to more than 30 days now, and it was driving the state’s firearm industry to the brink.
“We’ve had numerous dealers contact us to say they have in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in stock that’s stuck out the back because someone has put a deposit on it and can’t collect it for more than a month,” he said.
“The dealers can’t use that space for new stock, which is causing their cashflow to slow to a trickle and causing untold issues with keeping on top of their bills, rent, making payments to suppliers, and being able to buy new stock.
“A single firearm can easily cost thousands of dollars without any accessories – it’s a huge amount of money to essentially be in limbo for any business, never mind small ones like firearm dealers, and when you multiply it by additional guns there are potentially some large numbers involved.”
Shooters Union has joined with other Queensland representative bodies including the Firearms Dealers Association of Queensland in demanding that not only the Police Minister
Mark Ryan, but also Small Business Minister Di Farmer, take immediate action to fix the situation.
“This isn’t just a ‘gun owners being mistreated’ issue, it’s a ‘small business is being actively harmed by the Government’ issue,” Mr Park said.
Among the demanded changes are a Customer Service Charter, similar to many other State and Commonwealth Government agencies, which would involve Permits To Acquire being issued within 7-10 days maximum, and firearms licence applications completed within 45-60 days maximum.
Industry representatives have also called for the automatic process of permit processing for rimfire rifles and shotguns (“Category A”) firearms, saying those application permits were almost never rejected anyway.
“In 2018, the most recent year we have data for), there were a total of 55,638 PTA applications across all weapons categories – not just firearms – and only 121 were rejected. This represents a rejection rate of 0.22% of all PTAs for that year,” he said.
“Everyone applying for a PTA already has a gun licence and has gone through safety training, provided an approved reason for owning a gun, have a gun safe to store it in, and been checked and vetted by the police.
“The risk posed by allowing automatic granting of PTAs for Category A firearms is extremely low and it would also solve a lot of issues.”
Mr Park said he was well aware some people wouldn’t have much sympathy for the situation shooters and firearms dealers were in, but said the issue was about far more than ‘Government shafting licensed shooters again’ and had serious implications for all Queenslanders.
“This is the equivalent of the Department of Transport taking months to process registration transfers for motorbikes, because senior people there decided the only people who wanted motorbikes were criminal gang members or bogans, so they could just get stuffed,” he said.
“Can you imagine if a significant number of motorcycle dealers in Queensland were at risk of going out of business because they couldn’t move their stock because the Department of Transport were taking forever to process registration paperwork before the owners could collect their vehicles? There’d be a Royal Commission into it.
“It’s not about guns, it’s about our government being accountable and delivering an acceptable, respectful service to citizens who are being charged a lot of money to use it.”