Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

Is there a minimum area of land for shooting on?


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When I started shooting in Australia, which was many years before I became a lawyer, there was a view that you could not discharge a firearm within one mile of a road. This in turn fueled lively discussion on trips about whether this referred to a highway, or a dirt municipal road, or even a private road on a property.

No one questioned the truth or otherwise of this ‘rule’ and, on looking at highway, criminal and firearms laws that applied at the time, the origins of this “rule” are quite elusive. I have no idea where this idea came from. Quite possibly far closer scrutiny may shed a light upon this.

Whether you are a municipal dirt road or a highway, or indeed the distance from the road, has no bearing, of course, on whether you may discharge a firearm. It is an offence to possess a loaded firearm in a public place or to discharge on in or near a public place.

A ‘public place’ can be taken to be anywhere a member of the public can be for free. This would include a public road or reserve and ‘near’ is in close proximity to.

A modern day equivalent of ‘the one mile rule’ is that there is a specified minimum area of land you must have access to before you are allowed to shoot upon it.

I often hear the figure of forty acres bandied about. Or was it hectares?, Firstly, there is no minimum size set out in the legislation, and if a bureaucrat wishes to try and apply a minimum, I suggest they be challenged in respect to this.

SAFETY

One question is that of safety.

If I wanted to use small acreage as a basis for a special need application, I would bear in mind the maximum ranges of the following chamberings. I have conveniently lifted these from the National Firearms Safety Code to demonstrate.

.22 rimfire 1.5 km
303 3.6 km
308 4 km
Air rifle 150 metres
Shotgun (#6 shot) 250 metres
Shotgun (BB) 450 metres

I would obtain a map covering the property, enlarge it, get a google maps photo of the area, and taking into account cover, and terrain, I would develop cones of fire that would enable me to safely shoot upon the property.

This material could then go to the Registry with my submission. This is similar to the approach in parts of Europe, Where one often see ‘Hoch Sits’ that are visible from a road, or railway while traveling around, and these are all angled so that the cone of fire from the Hoch sits would see spent bullets go to ground in a safe location such as the side of a hill rather than a home, railway or road.

Europe has a lot of experience with shooting on closely settled properties. Farms are small, and even the inappropriate use of even a .22 rimfire could see a round pass over a hill and into a village beyond. This is reflected in the approach of English Police when considering rifle applications.

While the initial reason post-WW1 for close regulation of rifles in the UK was fear of communism, this has been overtaken by genuine public safety concerns on a small, closely settled island.

If you are shooting and your projectiles are passing over property that you do not have permission to shoot on, the owner or occupier of that land may call the Police, as the matter involves safety. I would also therefore see neighbours and show them what I proposed to do, and if possible obtain their consent.

It is clearly in their interests to see pests controlled upon the adjoining property, and it is reassuring to them to know that it is being handled safely.

NUISANCE

There are two types of nuisance: private and public. A public nuisance affects the community, whereas a private nuisance effects only an individual.

A private nuisance may arise on one piece of land and effect the enjoyment of a neighbor. This could include noise.

I would suggest anyone thinking about shooting upon small acreage that they own consider this, and the amount of noise neighbours would hear.

One can often negotiate with neighbours so that practice may only occur during certain times or subsonic ammunition may be used.

Alternatively, you may consider applying for a sound moderator. Police in Australia have been somewhat backward in their thinking in respect to sound moderators, and it is high time this issue was on the agenda.

This 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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