The case of a Tasmanian man facing firearms charges after calling police for help due to a family violence matter will have a chilling effect on people seeking assistance in future, one of the country’s peak shooting organisation bodies says.
According to a story in The Examiner on Tuesday, well-regarded Launceston businessman Paul Anthony Morgan has faced court charged with unlawful possession of a firearm suppressor, following Mr Morgan contacting Tasmania Police to arrange removal of his firearms due to concerns for his safety as a result of a family violence matter.
While collecting the firearms, police found a suppressor amongst ammunition and charged Mr Morgan with an offence relating to its possession.
Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park said as a result, Tasmania Police had reinforced perceptions among the shooting community that police were always looking for ways to make their lives worse.
“The message licensed gun owners in Tasmania have received, loud and clear, is that if you call the police for help and it’s even remotely firearms related, you could very well be making things worse for yourself – so perhaps you should just keep quiet and suffer in silence instead,” he said.
“This man called police – voluntarily – to ask for the removal of his firearms due to a personal safety issue, and he’s now faced criminal charges and potentially issues with his job too, all from trying to do the right thing.”
Mr Park was particularly critical of Tasmania Police charging Mr Morgan given the context of why police were there in the first place, and the fact the suppressor did not fit any firearm he owned – meaning it was essentially an inanimate metal tube with some baffles in it.
“Yes, silencers are restricted items – which is a ridiculous law based entirely on misinformation from movies and video games – but Tasmania also has a permanent amnesty on,” Mr Park said. “From our perspective, there was no reason at all Tasmania Police couldn’t have just agreed the suppressor was to be surrendered as part of the amnesty, and ended the matter there – especially since there appears to be no evidence Mr Morgan was actually using the suppressor.”
While Mr Morgan will not have a conviction recorded provided he does not commit any other offences in the next 12 months, Mr Park said the fact he had been charged and the matter had gone to court at all was deeply concerning.
“This case will almost certainly have a chilling effect on licensed shooters seeking help for personal safety, security, or mental health issues and I genuinely question how its prosecution could be seen as being in the public interest as a result,” he said.