With the year coming to a close - and what a rollercoaster of a ride it has been for shooters - I’m pleased to report the successful relaunch of our Australian Federal Parliamentary Friends of Shooting group. I say ‘relaunch’, as all official groups need to be reformed and approved with each new Parliament.
Shooters are right at times to feel misunderstood and underappreciated, but on this occasion it was good to be among friends. Let’s face it, shooters are often the best friends of the environment, our flora and fauna, and recreational shooting itself provides a sport that is beneficial for the mind and, as we’ve said so many times before, is all-abilities friendly.
But back to the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting. Rio Olympics gold medallist Trap shotgunner Catherine Skinner and top-notch Double Trap shotgunner James Willett were special guests at the recent Canberra event, which was largely coordinated by Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie and the Liberals’ Ian Goodenough. Group co-chair Labor’s Anthony Byrne was unfortunately absent from Parliament due to family circumstances, but it was pleasing to see and talk with legislators such as the Country Liberal Party’s Nigel Scullion, Labor’s Joel Fitzgibbon and Rob Mitchell, Liberal’s Ross Vasta, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce and of course, renowned shooters’ supporters Bob Katter and David Leyonhjelm, among others.
Senator McKenzie said the goal of the group was to promote, educate and celebrate the achievements of Australian shooters. She said that they were keen to ensure that the debate about safe and responsible firearms ownership was based around evidence and facts. “Hunting and shooting also delivers an incredible economic, environmental and social benefit, especially to our regional communities,” said the Senator.
The relaunch of this group is the bright side of politics for 2016, but there have been plenty of emotional, ridiculous and even hysterical statements made by legislators, radical social advocates and the media concerning firearms laws and the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) review. I become frustrated - as I know you and all of our 180,000-plus membership do - when we hear misinformed rubbish being peddled about and I will always take the opportunity to correct the record when I can, as well as show shooting in the positive light it deserves to be in.
If you’ll excuse the pun, there is no silver bullet to educate the media and the non-shooting public overnight on the many positives of recreational shooting and hunting. Little by little, we just chisel away in many different ways at the myths and misunderstandings. This is an all-in, long-term campaign, with you, our members, an essential element of the puzzle adding to our clubs, State SSAA branches and of course SSAA National all doing their bit.
Keep up the great work, talk to the media, talk to your State and Federal legislators and talk to your friends. We are strong in numbers and I encourage you all to never be shy in promoting your chosen pastime. Have a safe and enjoyable Christmas.