Much ado about nothing
Rick Brown, CPI Strategic director and adviser to Field & Game Australia and the Australian Deer Association, writes that the firearm fearmongering in the last days of the recent Tasmanian election was a typical response.
The brouhaha over the Tasmanian Government’s commitment to modifying the state’s gun laws is a classic example of the cynical exploitation of ignorance.
There has been little, if any, detailing of the proposed changes, let alone dispassionate analysis of them.
Instead clichés playing to emotion has passed for analysis.
Federal leader Bill Shorten is the latest to tip his toe into this pool of cynicism. He has grandstanded by writing to the Prime Minister calling on him to conduct an immediate review of the proposals and to demand that the Tasmanian Government break its commitment if the proposals breach the National Firearms Agreement (NFA).
It seems that Mr Shorten wants to stomp on: • extending the licenses of those
firearms classified as Category A or B in the 1996 NFA (air rifles; rimfire rifles (excluding self-loading), single and double barrel shotguns, muzzleloading firearms, single shot, double barrel and repeating centre fire rifles and break action shotguns/ rifle combinations) from five years to periods up to 10 years and from one to two years for a Category C agent or contractor of a primary producer in order to stagger the annual renewal process and remove red tape; • extending the number of recreational shooting organisations to which competition clay target shooters wishing to use semi-automatic shotguns must belong to more than one; and, • issuing infringement notices rather than a summons for relatively minor breaches of storage laws, and not removing firearms as a result if the contravention is rectified without delay. Mr Shorten’s grandstanding also takes advantage of the fact that few voters know the Federal Government cannot enforce the NFA. In June last year the-then Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, told the members of the Firearms Industry Reference Group that: “Irrespective of the language used in the updated (National Firearms) Agreement, the updated Agreement is not legally binding upon jurisdictions. It remains up to the states and territories to determine how they will regulate firearms in accordance with the updated Agreement.”
In a letter to the Queensland Firearms Dealers Association in April last year he was even blunter:
“The use of the word ‘must’ does not make the Agreement as a whole (or any part of it) legally binding and it remains up to the states and territories to determine how they will regulate firearms in accordance with the updated Agreement.”
Mr Shorten has not been the only participant in this exercise of cynical grandstanding. Apart from the usual rent-a-crowd, he kept company with what appears to be the crowd’s honorary patron, former Prime Minister John Howard.
The Weekend Australian (March 10–11, 2018) reported that Mr Howard was siding with gun control campaigners and that he “is totally opposed to any alteration or weakening of the existing gun laws”.
The challenge facing those interested in a dispassionate, fact-based discussion and analysis of what is an emotional and complex issue is reflected in the words of former Liberal Tasmanian premier Tony Rundle, who was involved in the creation of the Agreement.
He opposes the Tasmanian Government because he ‘thinks’ some of them will be in breach of the NFA. He said: “I don’t support them because I think once you start tinkering with the gun laws, it’s an unpicking of them and there will be some mainland states taking an interest.”
(Weekend Australian, March 10-11, 2018) In other words, those involved in the creation of the NFA constitute the fountain of all wisdom and no further correspondence will be entered into.