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Push to import new ‘rapid-fire’ shotgun into Australia sparks concerns

This is the Verney-Carron Veloce, a French-made shotgun with a new fast fire and reload mechanism. It is not available in Australia but if Queensland gun importer Rick Casagrande gets his way, it soon will be.

His battle to bring the weapon into the country is now in the Federal Court.

“The Veloce will be used by people in North Queensland who are hunting wild pigs in abundance,” he said.

“They are people who hunt deer, who want a quality firearm.

“It’s just a very accurate, reliable firearm and it’s also quite safe.”

Mr Casagrande said when the Australian Federal Police inspected the gun, instead of giving it a classification they listed it in a special schedule of prohibited items, banned from importation into Australia.

‘No-go zone’

“Things like machine guns, mortars, any of those military-type weapons that are actually used in war … they can’t come in under any consideration whatsoever,” he said.

Mr Casagrande applied for a judicial review in the Federal Court and is awaiting the judgment.

He believes the AFP got it wrong, that the Veloce is a typical lever-action shotgun and should be classified as a category B firearm, one of the two least-restrictive categories.

Mr Casagrande said if the firearm is put in one of the more restrictive importation categories he will accept the decision, but with no classification, the firearm is essentially banned and he has no way forward.

“The frustrating thing is we don’t believe that it can’t be schedulised [sic] as one of the typical actions,” he said.

Australian Sporting Agencies CEO Rick Casagrande wants to import the Verney-Carrron Veloce shotgun. ABC News: Mark Lenordi

‘A semi-semi-automatic’

Gun control advocates disagree. They say the Veloce is a dangerous new style of “rapid-fire” gun.

Gun Control Australia chair Samantha Lee says it fires faster than typical category A and B lever or bolt-action firearms.

“With this particular firearm the concern is the rapid-fire mechanism. The ability for cartridges to be loaded at a very quick capacity,” she said.

“It’s been described as like a semi-automatic firearm. It’s quite a different mechanism to what’s been imported into Australia before.”

But far more troubling, according to Ms Lee, is that a rifle version of the shotgun is already available in Australia as a category B gun. It is called the Verney-Carron Speedline.

“We’ll be meeting with the Federal Justice Minister this week and we’ll be raising this issue, our concerns about the import of rapid-style firearms into this country,” she said.

“Any rapid-style semi-automatic type firearm should not be available to recreational hunters.

“Any firearm that is rapid style should be at its highest category possible — a category C or D.”

New South Wales Greens MP and gun control advocate David Shoebridge said the guns potentially needed their own unique category.

“This is effectively a new category of weapon, a new dangerous category that a number of firearms experts have described as a semi-semi-automatic weapon, with a high rate of fire. It doesn’t fit neatly into any of our current categories,” he said.

“You only have to look at its mechanism [and] its own sales pitch to see just how dangerous it is.”

The Verney-Carron Speedline rifle. ABC News: Mark Leonardi

NSW Police Minister urged to take quick action

Mr Shoebridge said the Verney-Carron Speedline and Veloce firearms are a step up from the controversial Adler lever-action gun.

And he does not understand how the Speedline has achieved a category B rating.

“This weapon though has an even more rapid rate of fire action. It’s designed for an extremely rapid cycling through of shot after shot, after shot, after shot,” he said.

“We have already sent correspondence to the NSW Police Minister urging rapid action by him to seek to reclassify the rifle that’s already in the country, and to ensure that he makes it known that he supports the banning of the importation of this weapon.

“We need to have an urgent meeting of state, territory and Commonwealth justice and police ministers to ensure the national firearms agreement is kept up to date and this weapon is categorised as category D — effectively banned.”

Gun control advocates say the gun categorisation system devised after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 is now outdated, and that dangerous new weapons are slipping in under the least restrictive gun categories.

Ms Lee says it is time for an overhaul.

“Gun manufacturers have introduced new designs, new models, new features, making general bolt-action firearms and turning them into rapid-style firearms,” she said.

“The unfortunate thing is that our laws here in Australia have not kept up with the change in technology and design in firearms.”

Reliability, not rapidity

But Mr Casagrande says the Speedline rifle and the Veloce shotgun are both appropriate category B lever-action guns.

He denies that they are rapid fire, saying the manufacturer’s promotional videos of the gun in action exaggerate how fast it can fire and reload.

“What you’ve seen on video is somebody with his hand on the side, shooting down the tunnel and going as fast as he possibly can … to show reliability, not necessarily the amount of the rapid-fire ability of the firearm,” Mr Casagrande said.

“There are lever actions in place that have been coming into this country for quite some time that have the same rapidity of fire as the Veloce or the Speedline.

“It’s no faster than a mechanical lever because it still takes to load, your hand has to come off the grip of the rifle to press the lever.”

Mr Casagrande says gun control advocates are fear mongering.

“Shame on you for thinking that we are Americans, that’s what I say to the anti-gun lobby,” he said.

Sporting Shooters Association of Australia chief executive Tim Bannister said there was no reason to reclassify the Speedline or ban the Veloce firearms.

“There’s always going to be new technology, we have new technology in all things. I’m not sure why we would try and circle a particular sport and say you’re not allowed to advance,” he said.

“It’s not more dangerous or less dangerous than any other firearm. A firearm in the right hands is a safe piece of equipment.

“The people who misuse firearms will continue to misuse firearms. They access them from the black market.

“What we would like to see is Gun Control Australia focus on the 97 per cent of misuse of firearms, which is caused by unlicensed people with unregistered firearms.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said the Commonwealth Government is responsible for matters relating to the import and export of firearms, while the state and territory governments have responsibility for all matters relating to possession, licensing and use of firearms.

The statement said the classification of the Verney-Carron Speedline rifle is a matter for each state and territory, and because judgement is reserved in the judicial review regarding the classification of the Verney-Carron Veloce shotgun, it would not be appropriate to comment on the matter before court.

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