Discussions about firearms could be heard echoing around the halls of Parliament House in February, but not in the usual negative tone. Around 65 politicians and their staffers gathered under the backdrop of Mural Hall in Parliament House, Canberra, to mingle with representatives from the firearms industry for a night of information sharing and open discussion about the shooting sports.
Co-hosted by the SSAA and the newly formed Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA), which comprises representatives from Beretta Australia, Nioa, Outdoor Sporting Agencies, Raytrade and Winchester Australia, the event was billed as an opportunity for our nation’s leaders to openly meet with key firearms industry people and the peak shooting organisation.
The event was openly supported by Senator David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats, Ross Vasta MP from the Liberal Party of Australia, Senator Bridget McKenzie from the National Party, and the Hon Anthony Byrne MP from the Australian Labor Party. Parliamentarians and their staffers were invited to attend the evening, with guests including Senator Ricky Muir from the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, David Feeney from the Labor Party, Senator Linda Reynolds from the Liberal Party, and Senator Fiona Nash from The Nationals. Representatives from other likeminded businesses and associations were also invited to attend.
SSAA National President Geoff Jones presented a keynote speech on behalf of the Association, encouraging guests to engage with the growing industry and pointing out that the role of the SSAA as lobbyists is one “we have been forced by bias, ignorance and patent unfairness to take on”.
“Lobbying remains a key activity of the SSAA so decisions by lawmakers such as yourselves deliver positive, sensible legislation for the 800,000-plus licensed firearm owners in Australia today, and we pride ourselves on dealing only in evidence-based fact,” said Geoff.
“At the SSAA, we take our role in responsible firearms use and education seriously, particularly in regard to safety, and we proudly work closely with the firearms industry and peak organisations such as the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia.
“For us and our members, this sport is our passion. I trust that our gathering tonight allows you to openly engage with us and my fellow colleagues about our chosen sport and pastime.”
Luca Scribani Rossi, past Italian Olympic Skeet shooter and founder of Beretta Australia, spoke on behalf of SIFA, urging politicians to overlook the negative stereotypes often portrayed by the media and to consider the many contributions shooters and hunters make to society.
Former Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Russell Mark acted as MC for the evening. Russell’s wife and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lauryn Mark was also in attendance, and the two spoke about their experiences with the shooting sports, citing the many opportunities it has given them throughout their careers.
The SSAA will continue to work proactively with SIFA to promote the firearms industry and encourage open communication with our leaders about any legislation that affects the shooting sports and licensed firearm owners.