Doc­tors in gun laws fight

Med­i­cal groups urge Hodg­man not to for­get Port Arthur

Sunday Tasmanian - - NEWS - DAVID BENIUK

FRONT­LINE med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als will to­day de­mand the State Gov­ern­ment strengthen rather than wa­ter down gun laws, with sub­mis­sions to an in­quiry into the pro­posed changes clos­ing this week.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from across the med­i­cal pro­fes­sions will front the me­dia to send a mes­sage to the Lib­eral Gov­ern­ment that the post-Port Arthur laws work and changes promised to gun users breach the Na­tional Firearms Agree­ment (NFA).

A Lib­eral Party pledge to loosen re­stric­tions on some semi­au­to­matic weapons and to dou­ble li­cence pe­ri­ods be­came pub­lic on the eve of the state elec­tion in March.

The pol­icy had been made avail­able to firearms own­ers.

The Gov­ern­ment has since agreed to a Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil in­quiry into the pro­posed changes, with Pre­mier Will Hodg­man re­peat­edly re­as­sur­ing Tas­ma­ni­ans the NFA will not be breached.

Med­i­cal groups in­clud­ing the Royal Aus­tralian Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers, the Aus­tralian Nurs­ing and Mid­wifery Fed­er­a­tion and the Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Union have all made sub­mis­sions to the Upper House in­quiry.

Medics for Gun Con­trol spokesman and GP Phill Pull- in­ger said there had been 13 mass shoot­ings in Aus­tralia in the two decades be­fore the Port Arthur mas­sacre of 1996, and just one in the 20 years since.

“Gun deaths have more than halved since the Port Arthur gun laws were put in place,” Dr Pullinger said. “They’re ex­cel­lent laws and have been ef­fec­tive.

“Re­ally the focus of gov­ern­ment should be on up­hold­ing and strength­en­ing those laws and fur­ther re­duc­ing deaths and harm from gun vi­o­lence.” A sub­mis­sion from the Royal Aus­tralian Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers highlights the toll on first re­spon­ders, daily code black se­cu­rity alerts in hospi­tals and stretched men­tal health ser­vices.

“To soften gun con­trol laws would in­crease the risk of firearm-re­lated trauma to all Tas­ma­ni­ans and this must be avoided,” col­lege pres­i­dent Bas­tian Sei­del said.

Also back­ing tougher laws will be the Alan­nah and Made- line Foun­da­tion set up to hon­our the mem­ory of the Mikac girls killed at Port Arthur and to fight vi­o­lence against chil­dren.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion’s ad­vo­cacy man­ager Stephen Ben­dle said the Hodg­man Gov­ern­ment pro­pos­als clearly breached the NFA.

“We’re hope­ful that Pre­mier Hodg­man will step back from those pol­icy state­ments.”

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