SSAA President Geoff Jones recently attended a meeting in Canberra to discuss issues facing the firearms community. The Firearms Community Consultation meeting was held at Parliament House in February and Geoff attended as representative of the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia and its members. Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Jason Wood MP, chaired the meeting and senior bureaucrats and politicians were in attendance along with other key stakeholders. The agenda included various updates from the Commonwealth, Department of Home Affairs and included:
- Amendments to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956;
- The National Firearms Amnesty;
- Draft Commonwealth Firearms Information Booklet;
- Proposed changes to firearms trafficking offences;
- Areas for improvement in processing Commonwealth firearms import permits.
Geoff said the updates involved little consultation but several points were of note. Regarding the amendments to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956, Geoff said there were issues with people who had a Category C or D licence but had trouble securing replacement parts due to federal and state legislation being in conflict with one another. The Commonwealth acknowledged this was an issue which needed to be looked at more closely.
With reference to the National Firearms Amnesty, attendees were informed most states and territories were in general agreement about the amnesty model but a couple of states were looking to adjust the model for their situation. Geoff said there was commitment across the board for a National Firearms Amnesty to take place but details were still being ironed out. He said the Federal Government was still in consultation with states and territories with the aim of a permanent national amnesty in an effort to improve public safety. The finer details were being discussed to result in a ‘practical model’, particularly for people who have inherent distrust of police and government.
The final agenda item allowed for participants to raise current issues faced by the firearms community. Geoff took this opportunity to raise a University of Queensland study, The Cost of Gun Control for Licenced Firearms Dealers in Australia, which found there is diminishing consultation between the firearms community and lawmakers. Geoff told the group there’s a “serious lack of genuine consultation . . . which could improve many processes”. He appealed for more consultation at state level and said decisions are often “dealt with by bureaucrats and systems analysts without acknowledging the culture”. He said there needs to be more consultation with both industry and sporting experts.
Overall, Geoff said it was great to have the ear of senior people at Commonwealth level.
“I felt there was positive communication and I’d say that’s always difficult due to limitations of the Commonwealth authority,” he said.
“But the meeting was positive and I believe the politicians and regulators did take on board our opinions and concerns, though whether we see any results is a different matter. But of course in politics the wheels turn incredibly slowly, though I do believe the current Commonwealth Government is making a genuine effort.”