Cool, calm and collected - Minister Keenan dismisses emotional calls to tighten gun laws

SSAA National cautiously welcomes the even-handed approach taken by Justice Minister Michael Keenan amid emotional calls to overhaul the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) and tighten the current gun laws.

Responding to statements made by the brainchild behind the fundamentally flawed NFA, John Howard, Minister Keenan directed the media’s attention to the current government’s plans to address the illicit firearms market by introducing minimum mandatory sentencing on firearms trafficking. When pressed by the media regarding how a 15-year-old religious extremist was able to obtain a handgun and murder News South Wales police worker Curtis Cheng, Minister Keenan rightly replied, “What that demonstrates is there are a large number of illegal firearms in Australia - that was an illegal gun that was used in that case.”

Minister Keenan also reiterated that calls for a nationwide firearms amnesty would be discussed with the states and territories before any decision is made. “If it was required, we would look at that,” he said. The SSAA pointed out in our preliminary NFA submission that firearm amnesties have been conducted by most jurisdictions on a semi-regular basis, with one currently underway in South Australia. Furthermore, criminals are not likely to hand in their illegal wares.

The SSAA strongly suggests a nationwide amnesty be based on the successful Queensland model held in 2013, where approximately 22,000 firearms were handed in to dealers or select gun clubs. Furthermore, any firearm surrendered should be made available to be legally registered, sold on or disposed of, rather than simply destroyed.

The SSAA also welcomes moves by the Federal Government to dedicate $88 million for more screening at Australia’s borders, as confirmed by a spokesperson for the Justice Department.

Minister Keenan’s comments come after a recent positive meeting with the Firearms Industry Reference Group, attended by SSAA National President Geoff Jones, which saw the Minister pledge to hold at least two meetings of the group per year, signalling more open communication with licensed firearm owners.

At the meeting, Geoff took the opportunity to reiterate to the Minister the need for careful consideration surrounding any plans for recategorisation, particularly of lever-action shotguns. He made it clear that such changes without any evidence could effectively be seen as confiscation without compensation. “I am also hopeful that we will see further cuts to red tape to improve efficiencies for our members,” said Geoff.

SSAA-LA will continue to bring our members the latest updates and information from future meetings and lobby for any proposed changes to be based on evidence and facts, not emotional hysteria perpetrated by individuals pushing an anti-gun agenda.

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