Cri­sis averted — for now

CPI Strate­gic di­rec­tor and Field & Game Aus­tralia ad­viser Rick Brown pro­vides an anal­y­sis of the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment re­view and what the po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vring means for le­git­i­mate firearms own­ers.

Field and Game - - Firearms opinion -

Fed­eral Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Keenan has an­nounced the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment will not change the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment.

When mak­ing his state­ment, Mr Keenan made the point that im­pos­ing even more re­stric­tions on law-abid­ing firearms own­ers and the use of reg­is­tered firearms would not af­fect the il­le­gal gun mar­ket or crimes in­volv­ing the use of il­le­gal firearms.

How­ever, the Gov­ern­ment's de­ci­sion to not im­pose fur­ther re­stric­tions on li­censed gun own­ers has not been a fore­gone con­clu­sion, and the role of the Na­tional Party in se­cur­ing this de­ci­sion has been vi­tal. The de­ci­sion sharply con­trasts with La­bor's position; they tried pres­sur­ing Mal­colm Turn­bull to ban the im­port­ing of the Adler lever-ac­tion shot­gun.

Had they been suc­cess­ful, it would have led not only to a ban on lever-ac­tion shot­guns but also pro­vided the ba­sis for bu­reau­crats and the anti-gun own­er­ship lobby to pur­sue their long-held de­sire to re-clas­sify lever-ac­tion and pump-ac­tion ri­fles and re­view the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment.

They came close to achiev­ing their aims last year when bu­reau­crats per­suaded key peo­ple in the Gov­ern­ment to link the Port Arthur mas­sacre to the Adler, and the Adler to ter­ror­ism, in order to jus­tify its ban­ning.

This plan was coun­tered only at the eleventh hour. The out­come was that Adlers with a ca­pac­ity of not more than five rounds were not re-clas­si­fied, but the im­port­ing of Adlers with a ca­pac­ity of more than five rounds was put on hold pend­ing the re­view of the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment.

Be­cause few politi­cians or their staff own firearms and there­fore know any­thing about them, it was easy to say the Adler rep­re­sented the use of new tech­nol­ogy, even though lever-ac­tion firearms have been around for 100 years. Con­se­quently, it was crit­i­cal that Mr Keenan was per­suaded to es­tab­lish an in­dus­try com­mit­tee to pro­vide him with ad­vice on is­sues re­lated to the re­view of the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment.

This com­mit­tee was able to pro­vide a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the is­sues from the com­mit­tee of state, ter­ri­tory and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment bu­reau­crats and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers who con­ducted the re­view. David Mcnabb, the gen­eral man­ager of Field & Game Aus­tralia, is a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee.

In­form­ing state and fed­eral politi­cians about the facts and data sur­round­ing lever-ac­tion shot­guns and the broader im­pli­ca­tions of re-clas­si­fy­ing them has been crit­i­cal, just as it was crit­i­cal in re­spond­ing to the Greens-ini­ti­ated Sen­ate Com­mit­tee in­quiry into gun-re­lated vi­o­lence.

As the anti-gun own­er­ship lobby be­came aware their plan was meet­ing re­sis­tance, they re­sponded. Some bu­reau­crats main­tained the position that Adlers with a ca­pac­ity of more than five rounds should be re-clas­si­fied so that recre­ational and com­pet­i­tive shoot­ers would not be able to own them, al­though

other bu­reau­crats and law en­force­ment of­fi­cers from around the coun­try pointed out the Adler did not rep­re­sent new tech­nol­ogy and there was not a ba­sis for re-clas­si­fy­ing the gun.

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter John Howard ap­peared at a fund-rais­ing func­tion for the anti-gun own­er­ship lobby, Gun Con­trol Aus­tralia. When Gun Con­trol Aus­tralia ap­peared at the Sen­ate Com­mit­tee in­quiry into gun-re­lated vi­o­lence they re­fused to say how many mem­bers they had. It is thought that they have very few.

Sub­se­quently Mr Howard had star billing on an SBS pro­gramme about Aus­tralia's gun laws. It may be that Mr Howard wants to pro­tect his legacy, in­clud­ing talk­ing up the im­por­tance of the 1996 gun laws.

But then again, in 2002 he said: “I hate guns. I don't think peo­ple should have guns un­less they're po­lice or in the mil­i­tary or in the se­cu­rity in­dus­try.” The Na­tional Party was crit­i­cal in per­suad­ing the Gov­ern­ment to base its de­ci­sions on facts and stare down the an­ti­gun own­er­ship lobby as well as in­form­ing politi­cians across the coun­try about the facts and im­pli­ca­tions of re-clas­si­fy­ing the Adler. While we have seen off this at­tempt by op­po­nents of pri­vate gun own­er­ship to im­pose fur­ther re­stric­tions on lawabid­ing firearm own­ers, this is not a fi­nal vic­tory. They are con­stantly look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to fur­ther their cause and we can­not be com­pla­cent.

Shoot­ers can­not take their abil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in their sport for granted and need to place a high pri­or­ity on in­form­ing and ed­u­cat­ing a city-dom­i­nated so­ci­ety, which has lit­tle knowl­edge of guns, about the dif­fer­ences be­tween the le­gal and il­le­gal own­er­ship of guns and facts about le­gal gun own­ers and their firearms.

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