BITE THE BULLET
We must get guns out of suburbs, doctors say
DOCTORS want sporting shooters to store weapons at gun clubs instead of their homes in one of the biggest shake-ups of gun laws since the Port Arthur tragedy. The Australian Medical Association has called on politicians to overhaul gun laws, showing the leadership that John Howard did after the 1996 killings. It is understood authorities have considered gun club storage because they were concerned about people stealing guns from legitimate owners and using them in crimes.
The call comes just days after the Las Vegas shooting, where gunman Stephen Paddock killed 58 concertgoers and injured hundreds more.
AMA president Michael Gannon, left, said gun clubs were the safest place to store weapons.
“Farmers should be storing weapons securely on their property, but there’s no reason a sporting shooter in a metropolitan area needs to keep a gun at home,” he said.
“Individuals who own guns and keep them at home are more likely to be victims of gun violence.”
“If your form of recreation is being a sporting shooter instead of a yachtie or watching the footy, we’re not calling on a ban on guns but for the appropriate use of firearms,” Mr Gannon said.
Tasmania’s Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party said restrictions on firearms and their owners were already tight enough.
“Certainly what happened in Las Vegas, and other parts of the world, while being a major disaster shouldn’t cause kneejerk reactions back here in Australia,” acting chairman Ken Orr said.
“We’ve got some of the tightest gun laws in the world and the rest of the world looks at us as a gold standard.”
Shooters and firearms both require licences in Tasmania, locked safes are mandatory and ammunition must be stored separately.
This year, owners with 10 or more guns were required to install security cameras or alarms.
“We are licensed as individuals and have our firearms licensed, and we comply with all the security requirements of both firearms and ammunition,” Mr Orr said.
Tasmanian Minister for Police and Emergency Management Rene Hidding backed the current laws.
“Australia and Tasmania already have some of the strongest and most effective gun laws in the world. Linking Las Vegas to Australia’s gun laws in 2017 ignores that fact,” he said.
“However, all jurisdictions are committed to ensuring Australia’s laws are contemporary and continue to deliver on the intent of the NFA [National Firearms Agreement].”
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation which was set up to honour three victims of Port Arthur — the children of Walter Mikac and his wife Nanette — said taking guns out of the home would improve safety.
“We definitely understand that there is an increased risk when guns are in homes,” the charity’s chief executive Lesley Podesta said.
But she said there was also a risk that gun clubs could become targets.
“I am always worried about signalling to people that want to do us harm that there are hundreds of guns being stored in the one spot,” she said.
There has also been urgent calls to fast track a real-time national gun register, which was first proposed after 35 people were killed with semiautomatic weapons in the Port Arthur rampage.
Ms Podesta said she was “at a loss” as to why the real-time register wasn’t operational yet.
Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan said information was currently being migrated to the new system, called the Australian Firearms Information Network.
But Government sources said the real-time register would not be operational until late next year.
Mr Keenan said that gun storage was a matter for state governments.
Tasmania’s Police Commissioner Darren Hine said: “Tasmania’s firearms licensing process requires applicants to declare any mental or physical illness and, in some circumstances, requires them to provide appropriate medical certification.
“Anyone who holds a firearms licence is required to be a ‘fit and proper person’.
“Processes are also in place to facilitate the sharing of firearms information and intelligence between jurisdictions, which also enhance gun control in Australia.”