Gun law changes proposed in Tasmania

Originally published in the Burnie Advocate

Gun law changes will introduce mandatory jail terms if they are legislated as the state government proposes in March.
The state government yesterday announced it would introduce changes to firearm laws, lowering the age limit for supervised gun use in the field, and increasing penalties for possessing a stolen firearm.
These penalties would include a three-month mandatory jail term.
Among other changes canvassed was legalising paintball in Tasmania, the only state disallowing the popular activity, according to Police Minister Rene Hidding.
An improved storage regime would be introduced, he said.
“Current [firearms] legislation was enacted in 1996 and is way overdue for modernisation in ways which provide for a safer community while recognising the responsible activities of law-abiding Tasmanians,” he said.
Changes to penalties were needed to prevent gun theft, vice president of the Firearm Owners Association of Tasmania John Green said.
The proposed mandatory jail terms “came out of left field”' for the association, he said.
It had pushed for “appropriate” penalties for gun theft, Mr Green said.
However, gun theft needed mandatory jail terms as punishment, he said.
“We need something in place that sends a message to other criminals that if you steal a firearm, you'll be doing jail time,” he said.
Under proposed changes the minimum age to discharge a firearm in the field under supervision of an experienced firearms licence holder will be lowered from 16 to 15 years.
Tasmania's age limit would remain the highest for supervised juniors in Australia, the government said.
Mr Green said the FOAT hoped for the minimum age to be lowered further to 12.
Anti-gun advocate Roland Browne said allowing paintball in Tasmania would promote a gun culture.
“We decided we weren't going to promote an American gun culture in Australia [after Port Arthur in 1996],” he said.
“We as a society should condemn anything that involves pointing a gun at another person.”
The government said there was no evidence allowing paintball would foster a gun culture.
Mr Browne said the minimum age for gun use should be 18, and that the licensing system should make it harder to own multiple firearms.
“People do not need and should not need large numbers of guns in their hands,” he said.

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