Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

Loose Cannon: SA Improvised Moderator Laws


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On February 7, 2014 South Australia firearms laws changed, by virtue of the Firearms (Miscellaneous) Amendment 2013 and Firearm Variation Regulations.

Section 5 depicts a Silencer as: “silencer” means a device designed or adapted to be attached to, or comprising part of, a firearm to muffle the report when the firearm is fired and includes baffles, tubes or other parts that when fitted together would comprise a silencer;

I shall refer to a sound moderator as a ‘sound moderator’, and not as a ‘silencer’, because ‘silencers’ do not exist. They are a physical impossibility, and even the highly efficient Welrod pistol, De Lisle carbine and moderated High Standard .22 that were developed during WW2 failed to achieve total silence.

The photograph of a firearm with the ubiquitous bottle on its muzzle that appears in the description on the Police website tends to suggest that this definition is intended to catch individuals who choose not to collect the 10c for the return of a bottle and apply it to a somewhat more nepharious purpose of reducing the noise produced by their .22.

If so, the definition is convoluted. If a Coke bottle, is simply placed on the muzzle, as it has not been ‘designed’ as a sound moderator, it would not breach that part of the test, nor unless it is modified in some way has it been ‘adapted to be attached to’ the muzzle. However, if fitted to a firearm, it would ‘comprise part 

of the firearm to muzzle the report, meeting the test of being a ‘silencer’

One wonders if there have been any incidents in which sound moderators have been misused, or if the Police policy in SA is simply of looking for problems that do not exist.

Sound moderators are widely used in the UK and NZ without adverse effect. In fact, shooters in either, who do not use a sound moderator in closely settled country are considered to be rude and disrespectful to their neighbours.

It would, I think, be of some use for Police Ministers around Australia, to go overseas on sabbatical, with view to educating themselves about the sort of things that criminals actually use, instead of further reducing liberties simply because Police are advising them that ‘the sky is falling in’. 

They may be surprised to find that the sensible regulation of sound moderators, cross bows, air rifles, paint ball guns and air soft could dramatically reduce their work load and at the same time leave the law abiding sportsman of Australia feeling somewhat less persecuted.

Given the ease with which a moderator can be improvised, would it not be easier to allow shooters to own them if they possess a shooters licence?  After all, if you possess an illegal firearm, and are intent on firing it, are you going to be troubled about making an improvised sound moderator?

I understand that between 7 February 2014 and 30 June 2014 there shall be a grace period, during which improvised moderators ( inc Coke bottles) can be surrendered to the South Australian Police.  The Regulations are silent on the question of whether Police shall pay you the 10c deposit that attaches to empty bottles in South Australia during this period….

Simon Munslow


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