Senate Inquiry report pushed back again

The SSAA was poised to respond to the recommendations from the Greens-led Senate Inquiry into gun-related violence in the community this month, but will now have to wait, as another request for an extension has been granted. The committee was due to report its findings on March 26, but this has been delayed until April 9. It is the fourth time the date has been moved.

The Inquiry was established in June last year under the guise of ‘combating illegal firearms crime in Australia’. Announcing the Inquiry, Greens Senator and committee chair Penny Wright said the committee would specifically consider a blanket ban on self-loading handguns. “There are more than 10,000 handguns on the black market...Handguns are designed to kill people - nothing else - so what justification is there for people in the community to own them?” she said. “The Australian Greens’ view is we can reduce gang crime by taking away gang weapons.”

The SSAA immediately responded to the Senator’s statements, labelling the Inquiry nothing more than a smokescreen for the Greens’ long loathing of private firearm ownership. The SSAA cautioned against any attempt by the Greens to further restrict legitimate firearm owners’ activities and insisted the focus be on organised criminals and ensuring the strength of our country’s borders.

Following this, the SSAA prepared a submission to the Inquiry, responding to the areas under consideration, including the effect a ban on handguns would have on the illicit market; adequacy of current laws to deal with 3D-printed guns; and views on stricter storage requirements, including the suggestion for mandatory alarms on firearm safes. More than 420 submissions were received from individuals and organisations, with the majority raising concerns about the apparent push for tighter firearms regulation in what is already one of the most heavily regulated industries in Australia.

Following attendance at the Melbourne and Sydney hearings, the SSAA was invited to answer questions about our submission at the final public hearing, with SSAA National President Geoff Jones and CEO Tim Bannister presenting in Canberra. Throughout the hearings, Senator Wright continued to parrot to the media the line that “almost all illegal guns started out as legal firearms”, ignoring evidence presented by a number of submissions that showed the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service is not sufficiently capturing illegal imports. The discovery of more than 140 self-loading handguns delivered to criminals through a suburban Sydney post office in 2012 was explained to the Senator, who appears to have decided to ignore evidence contrary to her personal views.

Senator Wright suggested on a number of occasions the need for stricter storage requirements to prevent theft, once again using the insulting line that “all illegal firearms come from licensed shooters”. She also overstated the rise of 3D-printed firearms, calling for legislation to be tightened to specifically address this. The SSAA has pointed out that this paranoid view ignores current laws banning the manufacturing of any sort of firearm, including plastic homemade amateur firearms, without a licence.

It has also been disappointing to see Senator Wright pre-empting the findings of the report before, during and even after the Inquiry, including before the report was finalised. She told ABC Radio National that she expects the fast-tracking of the National Firearms Interface (NFI) and auditing of current state and territory firearms registries to be part of the report’s recommendations. An audit will not capture illegal firearms, nor will the costly NFI have any public safety benefit, as heard throughout the Inquiry.

Other committee members, including Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie and Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, stuck to evidence gathering throughout the hearings and paid particular attention to the issue of illicit imports coming through our borders.

SSAA National CEO Tim Bannister said the Inquiry has reinforced the anti-gun position of the Greens who continued their attempts to marginalise law-abiding licensed shooters. “The Greens have always had an ideological hatred of firearms and with virtually no significant achievement in the current Federal Parliament to date, they rely on inquiries such as this to gain media attention and promote their widely opposed ideas,” he said.

“The constant pre-empting of findings and use of facts disproved throughout the Inquiry has proved our prediction that this Inquiry was established to steer community debate surrounding our sport and chosen pastime into the gutter, with the Senator’s prejudice and deliberate twisting of facts quite astonishing.

“Our members can rest assured that the SSAA is ready to respond to any recommendation that places further burdens on the licensed, law-abiding firearm owner, for no public safety benefit.”

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