As licensed, law-abiding firearm owners, sporting shooters and recreational hunters, we can be more effective if we communicate with one united voice - that is, if we all hold to the same general view, our voices will carry more weight in the public arena. SSAA National has developed statements on the following subjects to communicate our position on key issues.
We have also outlined some information and tips for members wishing to write to politicians.
Politics of firearms
The Australian media often sensationalises firearm misuse when in reality firearms are only used in 3 per cent of violent crime in the country and of this amount, only 7 per cent are registered. While firearm ownership is strongly regulated in Australia, the SSAA has repeatedly stated that criminals can obtain firearms outside of the law and this is where legislators and law enforcement should concentrate their efforts.
Licensing and registration
The SSAA believes that firearms should only be in the right hands - that is, licensed, law-abiding citizens - and while we are against overburdened licensing schemes, we are aware that in Australia firearm ownership is a freedom that is coupled with great responsibility.
The black market
Prior to 1996, many firearms in Australia were unregistered. It is unrealistic to believe that after 1996, all firearms were then registered, therefore creating a path of firearms in Australia with no traceability. In addition, Australia’s border control is similar to that of any other country in the world - it is not perfect. As such, the SSAA has actively contributed to educating legislators on targeting the black market and its sources.
Handguns have been heavily regulated in Australia since before World War I. Handguns are the most heavily regulated firearm, with shooter licensing and the purchasing of any handguns severely restricted in most Australian states. This is despite handguns being the least likely type of firearm to be stolen.
Single-shot and self-loading handguns are used in a variety of national and international competitions. As such, the SSAA will continue to protect the interests of our members and the wider firearms community who legitimately utilise handguns for their sporting activities across the Olympic, Commonwealth, international, national, state and club levels.
Self-loading rifles and shotguns
Just like handguns, self-loading longarms are heavily regulated in Australia. However, both self-loading shotguns and rifles have a place in the firearm owner’s repertoire, particularly for those involved in dangerous or large-game hunting or for those who need to cull a large number of animals. Due to their nature, self-loading longarms can have less recoil and are therefore also ideal for sporting shooters with a physical impairment.
The SSAA does not consider sound suppressors to be a community risk and in fact considers them to offer community benefits such as noise reduction. Suppressors play a functional occupational health and safety role for both shooters and bystanders. Suppressors reduce recoil by dispersing gas and reducing noise and the potential for hearing damage. The SSAA also considers that sound suppressors increase the efficiency of culling activities by reducing the chances of alarming animals in a multi-culling situation.
The SSAA believes that children in Australia should be educated in the following basic firearm message, which states, if you see a firearm:
2. Don’t touch it
3. Leave the area
4. Tell an adult.
The SSAA encourages juniors to be involved in recreational shooting and hunting under the supervision of a licensed adult. Firearms can only be owned and stored by a properly licensed adult. The SSAA believes that participation in the shooting sports encourages a high level of discipline, responsibility and maturity in juniors.
Vocal anti-shooting groups already use social media networks to spread their messages in the form of the Anti Hunting Movement, Animal Liberation and the Australian Greens Party. The SSAA believes that despite such perils, recreational shooters and hunters have an opportunity to build online communities with likeminded people who share their enthusiasm for our chosen pastimes, as well as create a positive outlet for emphasising the many benefits that shooting activities bring to society.
It’s great to be passionate about shooting and hunting and to share this with friends and followers, but commonsense and careful consideration of what is posted should prevail when sharing a photo or information online about our sport and chosen pastime. If we want shooting and the use of firearms for sport and hunting to be viewed fairly and in the best possible light, we have a responsibility as SSAA members and shooters to make sure our actions on social media sites promote the safe, fun and enjoyable nature of our sport.
The SSAA is a recognised non-government organisation (NGO) with the United Nations. In addition to being an inaugural member of the World Forum on Shooting Activities (WFSA), which has NGO status itself, the SSAA contributes to treaties and debates regarding civilian firearm ownership, particularly in the Pacific region.
Pest management and conservation
The SSAA supports pest management to reduce the environmental effects of feral and overabundant wildlife. Pest management activities can result in both positive conservation outcomes and economic benefits. The removal of predatory or grazing pest animals results in environmental benefits such as conserving vulnerable native species populations across the landscape or reducing stock and feeding losses for farmers.
Hunting and conservation go hand in glove. Indeed, hunters and hunting groups have been involved in conservation for a very long time. Responsible hunting embraces sustainable animal management practices. Sustainable hunting is not just about ensuring that the population of a game species is regulated and managed, but it is also about maintaining and rehabilitating habitat to benefit other species. Hunters undertaking predator and grazing animal control provide protection for native flora and fauna on both public and private land.
The SSAA has a proud history of undertaking pest management through coordinated shooting programs. Operation Bounceback in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges National Park is an example of a shooting program that has assisted in the restoration of habitat and native species, in this instance being the yellow-footed rock wallaby.
SSAA Farmer Assist is another example of a program that utilises volunteer hunters to manage wildlife and environmental issues. This program was introduced to enable farmers to get free assistance to help with pest animal problems on their properties. SSAA members who participate in this program have all achieved a skill competency equivalent to professional shooter training and have committed to operating under a code of practice that demands safety, animal welfare and ethical behaviour.
Theory of managed hunting
Historically, hunters are the best conservationists in the world. As any species breeding season progresses, 40 to 80 per cent of animals will die off, usually through lack of water, but also through lack of feed. A controlled hunting season capitalises on this and harvests a small percentage of individuals out of the declining population. Without hunting, these would otherwise perish and rot, rather than provide food or leather, which can be put to good use.
Hunters provide money for conservation. When hunters buy open-season permits, the funds raised can be used by governments to improve habitat, which increases the land’s carrying capacity. This results in higher populations of game, wildlife and other species.
The modern trend to ‘preservationism’ or ‘protectionism’ instead of conservation is harmful to animal populations. This is why emerging countries in Africa and Eastern Europe are actively encouraging hunting after long periods without it. Wildlife management and habitat regeneration are the keys to expanding wildlife numbers and funds from hunters and shooters make it possible to initiate realistic programs of education, research and action.
The SSAA supports the hunting of waterfowl as a legitimate recreational pastime. Duck hunting allows people to connect with the environment while at the same time harvesting healthy, wild, free-range organic food. Duck hunting also allows for the creation and care of wetlands that provide habitat for hundreds of other species outside the species of waterfowl that can be harvested. Regulated and sustainable hunting seasons ensure that the wild duck resource is not overexploited and will therefore be available for generations to come.
Shooting vs trapping or poisoning
The SSAA supports hunters and pest managers using a variety of methods such as shooting, trapping and poison baiting to control the population of invasive species. Each method has a role to play and, if used together, can increase the efficiency of pest control activities. The main benefits of shooting is that this method is highly target specific and is ethical and humane. Using skilled volunteers also makes shooting one of the least expensive pest control options available.
Trophy hunting and ‘canned hunting’
Managed and regulated trophy hunting in Australia and around the world provides conservation, economic and social benefits to local communities. The SSAA supports such activities. Unethical ‘canned hunting’ activities - where animals are hunted without ‘fair chase’ or are drugged, baited or kept in small enclosures to avoid escape - are not supported by the SSAA.
Target shooting competition
With more than 440 clubs around Australia and strong international links with likeminded shooting organisations, the SSAA supports and encourages target shooting at all levels including club, regional, state, national and international.