Robert Nioa, who is likely to be on the ministerial advisory panel, is not yet convinced things will change for the better in Queensland.

Brave new world for Queensland shooters?

Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey has announced a new advisory panel made up of shooters and is seeking input from firearm owners, making strong hints about a new attitude to firearms in the state.

Shooters believe Mr Dempsey’s moves may presage a new and positive review of gun laws in the state, although shooting organisations are cautioning anyone about getting too excited about it before more details are revealed.

Contrary to what some gun owners appear to believe, an official review of the Weapons Act is not underway, but Mr Dempsey has sought feedback from individuals and groups about gun laws and the licensing system in Queensland.

As predicted by Sporting Shooter last week, the Minister has now formed a ministerial advisory panel he says will advise him on “how to reduce the red tape, delays and bureaucracy legitimate firearms users face when applying for a licence or new weapon”.

“I have created this panel to advise what legal firearms users require and any improvements that are needed, so they can safely enjoy their sport without experiencing mountains of forms and months of delays,” he said.

Panel members are Rob Harrold from the Shooters Union of Queensland, Rob Nioa representing firearm dealers, and SSAA Queensland president Geoff Jones, Paul Feeney of the Queensland Shooters Association, Women into Shooting and Hunting chair Samara McPhedron and David Kelly of Halls Firearms. Mr Dempsey is still seeking a member representing AgForce.

“I’m confident this panel will be able to help me strike a balance between being tough on illegal firearms while understanding of occupational and sporting shooters needs,” Mr Dempsey said.

The Minister also said the panel would help crack down on illegal use of firearms, although for law-abiding shooters the key point is that the penal should be in a position to ensure police and lawmakers correctly distinguish between legal and criminal use of guns.

The Minister’s media release on the establishment of the panel included a swipe at the current licensing system, in a quote from the SSAA’s Geoff Jones: “SSAA Qld believes that the current firearms licensing legislation and system is not evidence based and does little to contribute to public safety or the public interest. It is misdirected, unwieldy, costly, error ridden and is rapidly becoming unworkable.”

The inclusion of such a strong and critical statement in a ministerial release sets a tone for change, even if it is not the Minister’s own words. 

Rob Harrold said he was optimistic about where this may lead, and told Sporting Shooter, “Our feeling is that this Minister is genuine.”

He said that, unlike the previous government’s Minister, who had arrived at meetings with an entourage of police and bureaucrats, Mr Dempsey had not needed minders, had answered questions directly, asked intelligent questions and come armed with knowledge.

“He has a good bedside manner, but whether he can cure things, we’ll see,” Mr Harrold said.

Mr Jones agreed the indications from the new Minister were positive, especially the fact that he was actively seeking feedback from shooters and shooting organisations.

“The Minister appears to have a personal understanding of the problems and wants to resolve them,” he said.

Rob Nioa welcomed the creation of the panel, pointing out that the scope for it has existed since the 1996 legislation was introduced but no Queensland government had ever formed one.

But all three shooting representatives made it clear they were far from convinced about whether Dempsey’s moves would really achieve anything.

“I’m an old stager who’s been around for a while,” Mr Jones said. “I’ve seen governments come and go and I’ve heard a lot of promises.

“Rather than being optimistic, I’d say I’m cautiously hopeful that we might get some results.”

Setting up a committee was “a typical way for politicians to bury a contentious issue,” allowing them to say they had consulted with stakeholders, Mr Harrold said.

“When we suggested this panel be formed, the Minister immediately latched onto it,” Mr Nioa said.

“However, if this becomes an exercise in trying to keep shooters quiet, it has the potential to make us more angry. I’ve got my radar right up on that.”

Firearm owners fought off the worst of mooted Weapons Act changes before the recent Queensland election, but were still hit with unnecessary legislation such as magazine capacity restrictions after the LNP, then in opposition, supported the Labor Party’s amendments.

Shooters have also been battling a dysfunctional Weapons Licensing Branch that was ‘losing’ licence and permit applications, often resulting in people’s firearm licences expiring because the police were not processing them in time.




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