If you need further proof that the safe, fun and all-abilities sport of shooting has cemented its place as the sport of choice for many Australians, look no further than the exciting growth in members your SSAA is experiencing. This month saw our membership numbers exceed 190,000, with the increased interest showing that more and more people are embracing sports shooting as a great recreational choice that caters to the whole family.
A key point of difference between the sport of shooting and other chosen recreations, such as football or cricket, is that our membership numbers directly reflects participation rates: that is, our members aren’t just spectators or supporters, they are actively involved in the sport. As we march towards 200,000 members, I encourage you to continue to introduce your mates to our sport as we all play our part in promoting sports shooting and responsible firearms ownership.
Another role we should also take seriously is highlighted in two letters to the editor published this month in Australian Shooter, which will resonate with many of our members. Much has been said about the drought currently gripping many parts of Australia. There’s no doubt our country cousins are doing it tough. Our members have a strong relationship with farmers, with many of us given the courtesy of hunting on their properties or called upon to lend a hand with necessary culling activities.
As coverage of the drought inevitably vanishes from the mainstream media in a matter of weeks, with any rain merely offering temporary relief, we know firsthand that the effects will be lasting and it will take some time for our farmers to recover fully. Therefore I implore you, as individuals who have a personal relationship with farmers, to lend a hand and reciprocate the friendship they have shown us. The hunting community has a close bond with the regional communities and we are best placed to assist in such trying times. With more than 80 per cent of our members identifying as hunters, the SSAA is also well aware of the practicalities that affect hunting or culling activities on the ground. Our SSAA Legislative Action department (SSAA-LA), along with the state and territory branches, keep abreast of the latest laws that could affect our members and our recreation, including hunting. It was disappointing to see a commonsense Bill that would have allowed Victorian hunters access to sound moderators in certain circumstances shot down by the major parties last month.
As the Open Season column explores in further detail on page 10 of September’s Australian Shooter, many of the reasons the politicians gave against the Bill were based on emotion and uncited opinions - including one elected representative admitting their knowledge of “silencers” was based on TV shows! It’s clear the role of the SSAA as educators and leading researchers in the firearms field is needed more now than ever and we will certainly continue our work in this area.
On a national level, as the politicians return to Canberra following the winter break, we have also returned to the capital to continue educating our elected representatives about issues affecting the one million people who use firearms for legitimate purposes. Your association continues to make its presence felt, spearheading a number of initiatives and flying the flag for sporting shooters.
Our growth in numbers also cements our place as the largest and best-placed organisation to offer expert advice to legislators. For that I thank you, our members, the lifeblood of our sport.