You only have to glimpse at the activities posted on the SSAA National website and Facebook page during the past month to recognise just how involved we are in the political arena. From face-to-face meetings with the Justice Minister to appearing at government inquiries, and representing Australia at an international forum to actively pursuing the truth about common Greens anti-firearms claims, the SSAA has cemented its place as the premier lobby group for licensed firearm owners across Australia.
As we go to print, SSAA National is putting forward an extensive submission to the Attorney-General’s Department regarding the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) review. After seeking input from our state branches and industry experts, the submission expresses our concerns that the review could see further restrictions on the nation’s 800,000 licensed firearm owners, without addressing the real issues. We point out that the NFA has had serious negative repercussions on almost every aspect of our sport since its inception in 1996 and subsequent National Handgun Control Agreement in 2002, with no evidence of benefitting public safety.
In our submission, which will be made available to members, we challenge the fundamental direction of an NFA and highlight the unintended consequence of the NFA, which focuses on legal firearms when the real focus should be on the illicit market. The NFA review, including our submission, will be discussed at a Law, Crime and Community Safety Council meeting in November, with any proposed changes due early next year.
Along with the NFA review, the issue of the Adler A110 lever-action shotgun has also received significant media and political attention. At present, the government will remove the temporary import ban come August next year; however, this is dependent on the outcome of the NFA review. SSAA National has made it clear that the Adler should not be a scapegoat for public safety to please the vocal minority who are calling for its ban based on unfounded fears. This was raised in our meetings with senior government bureaucrats, the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group (FWPWG) and our meeting with Justice Minister Michael Keenan himself. In addition to these meetings, SSAA National is part of the Industry Reference Group, with SSAA National President Geoff Jones already attending one meeting.
While we are positively contributing to political discussions, we are also well aware of those politicians who despise our involvement in politics. Claims by Greens Senator Penny Wright and New South Wales Greens MP David Shoebridge have not gone unheard as they continue to misrepresent information regarding the source of illicit firearms. To that end, we have written open letters to the two key government bodies, the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) and Australian Crime Commission (ACC), who are often quoted as the source of the deliberately spun claims.
In our letters, we point out that Senator Wright has time and time again claimed that, “It is an inconvenient fact for gun advocates that the primary source of illicit guns is theft - as stated by the Australian Crime Commission and the Australian Institute of Criminology - and many of those guns have been stolen from legal owners,” while Mr Shoebridge has stated that “just one percent of illegal firearms come from illegal imports”, without any context.
We are seeking clarification from the AIC and ACC on the fact that unregistered firearms not handed in before the registration and licensing process was implemented is a main contributor to the illicit market. We are awaiting a response from the respective agencies.
Still in the world of federal politics, SSAA National has been vocal in calling for registered environmental organisations (REOs) to be required to spend at least 80 per cent of their funding on the ground and we testified at a government inquiry into tax-deductible donations for these groups. SSAA National Special Project Officer Pest and Wildlife Management Matthew Godson outlined the need for groups to spend tax-deductible donations on real environmental work, not political campaigning or green activism, at the hearing in Adelaide on September 1.
The SSAA is not listed on the REO and does not receive tax-deductible status, nor are we seeking it at this time. However, as a large community-based organisation that has invested heavily in the environment through our state branches and our many individual members, we felt we had to speak out against those who receive tax-deductible funds that are not spent in the right areas.
Finally, our SSAA International Representative Bob Green and President Geoff Jones are just returning from a meeting of the World Forum of Shooting Activities (WFSA) in Sweden. The forum gives the SSAA a chance to be involved in international discussions about hunting and the shooting sports, and learn from other experiences across the globe.
This is just a snapshot of the many activities of SSAA National over the past month, and while we can’t report on every activity, members can rest assured that we are recognised as key players in the ever-evolving political landscape, and ready for the challenges that are heading our way.