Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

How free can a shooter’s speech be?

A common question I hear is whether it is safe for Firearms Licence holders to express views on ‘political’ subjects.   Here I note some shooters have used this as a reason not to sign my firearms petition.

I have some sympathy for this view when it is held by people who have migrated from former Eastern Bloc countries, Russia and the Peoples Republic of China.

In each of these countries, the population lived in fear of being accused of having views at odds with those of the state, as punishment for possessing such views was usually quite severe.

While the regime in Australia is by world standards, quite liberal, there has been a tendency for the blanket of political correctness that shrouds Australia today to seek to stifle any debate that is viewed as being contrary to what the left wing, Latte and Focaccia Café set think. 

Witness the so called ‘Firearms Debate’ of 1996, which was nothing more than a political and corporate bullying exercise upon a legitimate group within the community (shooters).  It was not in the slightest ‘evidence based’ or a ‘public debate’.

Sadly, many shooters are concerned that if they express views, they will immediately be ‘on the radar’ and they may find themselves being victimized by the state.

Fear of this threat is understandable.  I have always thought that the most insidious part of the 1996 National Firearms Agreement was making firearms possession a privilege and not a right.  This and the broad discretion given to a bureaucrat give firearms owners a reason to be fearful.  But how real is this threat?

Firstly, let me state that if anyone expresses violent views, they can expect the force of law of Commonwealth, State or Territory to be applied toward them, and rightly so.  Here I note that the expression of views may in appropriate cases also violate Human Rights laws, and these may also be the subjects of action by the state.

I wish to stress here that I am talking about non-violent views, which may nevertheless be quite extreme.

There are not a lot of authorities on this issue, one that comes to mind is Potts v Commissioner of Police, NSW Police Service (1910) NSWADT 311

Mr Potts expressed a variety of beliefs of a white supremacist nature, and regarding war in the middle east, he possessed a view that could be described anti- Muslim, he was also described as holding unorthodox views with respect to the political and religious role of Judaism, the nature of the Holocaust and those responsible for the events of September 11.

In other words, he had, and expounded views likely to be considered offensive to a considerable number of Australians.

The Tribunal concluded:

‘There is no doubt that Mr. Potts holds political and religious views that can be fairly categorized as unusual, if not extreme, and would be regarded by many in the community as offensive and racist.  He is however, a man who has no convictions for offences and whose past demonstrates that he is a law abiding and hard working member of the community.  There is no evidence that he has ever used violence, or advocated its use in pursuit of his religious or political objectives.  Similarly, there is no suggestion that, as the holder of a firearms licence, he has ever used his weapons inappropriately, failed to store them as required, or otherwise breached the responsibilities which privilege of a firearms licence carries with it.

Thus, the Tribunal found that there was no evidence that Mr Potts posed a risk to the Public if permitted to possess a Firearm.

Simon Munslow

This article is for information only, it does not constitute legal advice.  If needed seek an opinion dealing with your particular circumstances. Reading this article does not give rise to a solicitor- client relationship.




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