Firearms consultation meeting

Earlier this year The Associations President Paul Britton was nominated and elected to the position of Vice President of the National Firearms Dealers Association.

On September 13th Paul was invited to attend a meeting in Canberra chaired by the Hon Jason Wood MP Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs we convened to discuss firearms issues with other industry representatives.

This meeting had some positive outcomes with the minister stating his willingness to work with the firearms community and industry.

See the decisions and outcomes from that meeting below.

 

 

Decisions and Outcomes: Firearms Community

A meeting with the firearms community was held on 13 September 2019 at Parliament House in Canberra. Representatives were present from Shooting Australia, National Firearms Dealers Association, Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Field & Game Australia, Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia, Firearm Safety Foundation (Victoria), W&E Platt and the Australian Clay Target Association.

The meeting was chaired by the Assistant Minister for Customs, Community Safety and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Jason Wood MP. Ross Vasta MP, Federal Member for Bonner, also attended as an observer.

  1. Welcome and introduction

The Chair noted that the purpose of the meeting is to understand the current firearms environment, discuss firearms-related matters and identify areas where government, the firearms community and gun control advocates can work together on issues that fall within the remit of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities.

The Commonwealth is responsible for matters relating to the import and export of firearms, the State and Territory governments have responsibility for all matters relating to possession, licensing and use of firearms. The Commonwealth will continue to advocate for a nationally consistent approach to firearms wherever possible and raise issues with State and Territory counterparts where relevant.

The Chair also expressed his interest in meeting with the firearms community on a regular ongoing basis.

Outcome: Members agreed to participate in regular ongoing meetings.

  1. Opening Statement

The Chair noted that to continue to both protect community safety and improve and streamline processes for industry it is important to take a collaborative approach and work constructively across all levels of government and with all stakeholders. Following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments agreed to a national approach to the regulation of firearms, setting this out in a National Firearms Agreement.

The National Firearms Agreement is a non-binding inter-government agreement. As the State and Territory governments legislate separately, the regulation of firearms does vary between jurisdictions.  The Commonwealth and the State and Territory governments work closely together to ensure the national approach to the regulation of firearms is supported by national information‑sharing systems. The Australian Border Force, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission lead important work in the area of illicit firearms.

  1. Draft Commonwealth Firearms Information Booklet

The Chair noted that the development of the Booklet is an outcome of the consultation meetings held by the then Assistant Minister, the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, late last year. The Booklet articulates a positive narrative to the wider community on the Australian Government’s strong commitment to community safety and the requirement that people have a genuine reason to acquire, possess and use a firearm.

The Booklet is a factual document that consolidates existing information already available in the public and compiles it into a single source to provide education and raise awareness of our firearms laws, standards and expectations. It outlines that there must be legitimate purposes to access and use firearms and the requirement that people wishing to possess and use firearms must meet a fit and proper person test.

The firearms community were generally supportive of the first draft of the Booklet. Some minor suggestions/edits were made by attendees that would be formally provided in writing to the Department.

Outcome: The Department of Home Affairs to circulate the next version of the draft Booklet for further comment that will include feedback received from both groups and State and Territory Governments (who are being consulted separately).

  1. Discussion of a possible National Firearms Amnesty

The Chair noted the success of the national firearms amnesty that was conducted over three months in 2017. The Amnesty reduced the number of unregistered firearms and firearm-related articles in Australian communities by allowing people to hand in unregistered firearms and firearm-related articles without fear of prosecution. The Chair raised his interest in pursuing a further national firearms amnesty through the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management in November and sought views on the merits of an amnesty and how it could be approached in terms of targeting any specific areas or groups and whether it be a time-limited or a permanent amnesty.

The firearms community were generally supportive of a further national firearms amnesty and raised the importance of utilising the dealer network.

The Chair canvassed interest in the associated information campaign being funded by industry. The firearms community indicated their willingness to consider this proposal further.

Outcomes:

  • The Department of Home Affairs to discuss a further national firearms amnesty at the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group meeting in September 2019.
  • Possible consideration at the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management meeting in November 2019.
  1.   Current issues faced by gun control advocates

Inconsistency with the National Firearms Agreement

The Chair expressed his concern that the regulation of firearms varies between jurisdictions. The National Firearms Agreement sets the minimum standards for the regulation of firearms in Australia and is a good-will non-binding agreement.

The Chair noted that he will be strongly advocating for a nationally consistent approach to firearms with his State and Territory counterparts.

Outcomes:

  • The Department of Home Affairs to raise inconsistencies across jurisdictions at the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group meeting in September 2019.
  • Possible consideration at the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management meeting in November 2019.

Serial number checking at the Border

Some members noted the lengthy time is takes to clear firearms at the border due to the checking of serial numbers by Australian Border Force Officers.

It was noted that the accurate recording of all firearms imported into Australia is a crucial part of our regulation of firearms.

Any consideration of importers assisting in the serial number checking process to expedite the clearance of firearms would need to be carefully considered including any risks associated with non-government personnel working in sensitive areas at the border.

Outcome: Australian Border Force to investigate serial number checking at the border including the possibility of setting a sample size for serial number checking.

National Firearms Identification Database

The National Firearms Identification Database sets uniform national standards for the identification of firearms registered within Australia. The database is a reference tool that enables State and Territory firearm registries and other agencies to identify and characterise a firearm, using nationally accepted descriptors such as make, model, calibre and magazine capacity. Ongoing work with partners continues to improve the reliability of this reference data.

It was noted that the National Firearms Identification Database was only a guide to the classification of firearms.

Payments for priority import permits to expedite the processing of certain applications

The Chair canvassed interest in the payment of fees to expedite the processing of import applications.

The Firearms community expressed general agreement that this proposal should be explored further.

The Department noted that applications for law enforcement, defence and sporting purposes could be further considered in the context of changes to the firearms-related provisions of the Regulations.

Outcome: The Department of Home Affairs to further explore this proposal.

State and Territory firearms registry systems

The Chair noted industry concerns with State and Territory firearms registry systems, in particular, that a number are still paper-based and indicated that he would raise it with his State and Territory counterparts.

Outcomes:

  • Possible consideration at the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management meeting in November 2019.
  • The Department of Home Affairs to circulate relevant documents relating to the Border Permit Review.
  1. Possible amendments to the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956

The Chair noted the feedback that has been received by the firearms community over time regarding the operation of the firearms-related provisions of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.

Bump stocks

The Chair canvassed views on the possibility of banning bump stocks. Bump stocks are not currently controlled on import into Australia. A Bump stock is a firearm accessory that works to increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic rifles so they mimic fully automatic operation.

The firearms community supported changes to the Regulations to restrict access to bump stocks.

Outcomes:

  • The Department of Home Affairs to raise the banning bump stocks at the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group meeting in September 2019.
  • The Department of Home Affairs to draft a policy proposal on restricting bump stocks and consult with the firearms community on any changes to the Regulations.

Appearance-based controls

The Chair canvassed views on the controls for firearms based on their appearance as opposed to the functionality of the firearm.

Members were of the view that controls should be based on functionality, not appearance, and that interpretation and enforcement is subjective and difficult.

Outcomes:

  • The Department of Home Affairs to raise appearance based controls at the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group meeting in September 2019.
  • Possible consideration at the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management meeting in November 2019.
  1. Proposed changes to firearms trafficking offences

The Chair noted the commitment of the Australian Government to ensuring a safe and secure Australia by enforcing tougher penalties on criminals that commit firearm trafficking offences. This includes increasing maximum penalties and introducing mandatory minimum sentences.

The firearms community broadly supported increases to maximum penalties for firearms trafficking offences.

Outcome: The Department of Home Affairs to raise changes to firearms trafficking offences at the Firearms and Weapons Policy Working Group meeting in September 2019.

 

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