Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

The Lindt Cafe siege – the wash up for LAFOs

The joint Commonwealth and NSW Review on the Martin Place Siege has now been released and, like most firearms owners reading it, I turned immediately to the chapter on Firearms. Part 2, Section 7.

The full report can be found HERE.

For those who may have been hunting on Mars at the time and are unaware of the siege.  Two people died at the Lindt Café in Martin Place Sydney as a result of a siege by Haron Monis. 

Monis was a self-proclaimed Muslim terrorist who was armed with a sawn off 12 gauge pump action shotgun.  This firearm accounted for one death.  The second arose from collateral damage from a round fired by Police when they stormed the building.

The review was conducted by Federal and State Governments in order to detail what they could do better or, subject to your level of cynicism, to announce what they are going to do differently.

Monis’ shotgun had not been registered or surrendered in 1996, and they concluded that this firearm came from Australia’s ‘grey market’:

‘Australia’s ‘grey market’ comprises of firearms that were not registered or surrendered in accordance with the NFA in 1996-97 and 2002 National Firearms Buyback programs.  These firearms are generally not held for criminal purposes, but many have been identified as ending up in the illicit market’

It then went on to say that the Australian Crime Commission estimated that there are more than 250,000 long arms and 10,000 handguns in the grey and illicit market.

This figure has been bandied around before.  How they have made this estimation I have no idea. 

To a large extent, from my observation, the ‘grey market’ is not necessarily part of the illicit market.  Yes they are illicitly held, but the motivation behind their possession is not criminally motivated. Many the ‘grey market’ firearms are held because of a fear of invasion, a desire not to have to part with a firearm that has sentimental value i.e. an 18th or 21st birthday present, or prize. 

In these days of so called ‘disarmament’, the United Nations and ‘global markets’, it is fashionable for the PC crowd to scoff at fear of invasion as a reason, but remember: fear of invasion last gripped Australians during WW2 when plans were made to evacuate the North, and many Australian migrants from Europe and elsewhere can remember family members being raped and murdered during lawless periods that occurred both during and following that conflict.

My family can remember British Home Guard units, on the eve of the possible invasion of Britain, drilling with shovels and shotguns because there were not enough Enfields to go around. Where a ‘group weapon’ was an improvised device for firing Molotov cocktails, and where people were most thankful for shipments of donated American sporting rifles when they started to trickle through.

Following the German withdrawal at the end of WW2 many Frenchmen, with similar fears, souvenired German side arms in anticipation of a fourth war.  Remember, at that time, France had fought Germany three times in 100 years.  These firearms, which include some of the best designed firearms of the century MP 40s, Lugers, P38s, Mg 42s, etc. do not feature significantly in French crime.

In fact, because of the sloppy way that NSW Police administered the Firearms database, a case could be made that firearms in the ‘grey market’ are more secure than licensed firearms. See Loose Cannon, 22/11/13 where I discuss revelations of sloppy Police record keeping by Sergeant David Good.

A large part of the Firearms Chapter deals with Monis’s holding of a security licence.  This is not really relevant to us, and I interpreted its inclusion as more of a statement by the authorities that they did something right in the handling of Monis by denying him a security licence after 2012 (after he sent offensive letters to the families of deceased diggers) than anything else.

Monis had held a security guard licence from 1997 to 2000.  For a short period of time – between March and July of 1997 – he would have been able to access an employer’s handgun while performing his duties, though this is ancient history now.

Immediately following the siege, an enquiry whether Monis had lawful access to a firearm created an ‘indeterminate’ result, which would have required checks to be made of state or territory databases.

Apparently there is no interconnectivity between the National Firearms Licensing and Registration System NFLRS and the National Police Referencing System NPRS, although both are administered through Crimtrac.

I for one have a problem with this proposed interconnectivity, which will give Police ‘more consistent association between identities and weapons’.  I shoot, and I do so lawfully.  I would find it of concern if I suddenly became a ‘person of interest’ upon the National Police Referencing System merely because I own firearms.  Remember that the only people on the National Referencing System as Firearms Owners shall be licensed firearms owners, as guns illegally held by mafia dons, enforcers and known terrorists shall not get a mention.

For this reason, no amount of computerisation would have found Monis’s firearm, as it has never been entered onto the Register.  If the firearms original owner had been permitted to have its magazine crimped and then been permitted to register it, it may well have not gone under ground in the first place, but Mr. Howard was not having a bar of crimping, or trusting the public with pump action shotguns, as he thought he had us on the ropes following Port Arthur.

I find it laughable that the one recommendation that the report does not contain, if they genuinely believe in the value of a Register of Firearms, and that is a way for firearms that have not been licensed to date to be back captured.

In NSW, a back door way used to exist, and it simply comprised of a dealer entering a Firearm into his books without indicating a source, and then transferring the firearm.  This has now been stopped, with Police adopting the position that any firearm that is not registered must be destroyed.

One area likely to be tightened as a result of this is ‘simplification of the regulation of the legal firearms market through an update of the technical elements of the National Firearms Agreement’. If bureaucrat speak is stripped from these words, I think they are referring to standardising licensing categories across Australia.

Clearly, neither the Federal Government nor NSW State Government have examined recent NSW Canadian and NZ action, which see registration restricted to classes of firearm deemed to be the most dangerous to the public.




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Simon Munslow