Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

Will A Sordid Past Haunt You?

I often have calls from people who have a bit of a colourful or sordid past, who feel that it may get in the way of them seeking a firearms licence. 

In many cases, they really have nothing to worry about. They have moved on with their lives in a totally different direction and the past has become very ancient history.  In other cases establishing that, in the words of Clint Eastwood,  ‘I ain’t like that no more’, may take a bit of work.

Some people have a history that includes a drug or violence conviction that is caught by mandatory prohibition periods operating in their state. That needs to expire before an application can even be considered. Others have backgrounds that they are concerned may lead to the Police forming a view on public interest grounds that it is not appropriate for them to have a firearms licence.

Now before people start wondering if old Simon has finally flipped his lid, and the ABC, Fairfax and Telegraph media headlines write about a firearms lawyer seeking to arm criminals, I want to stress that I am not talking about people who have been convicted of a major crime, I am talking about a level of offence that many serving members of the Police Forces around Australia have on their records, and quite possibly your law abiding next door neighbour also have in their past.

The typical background I am thinking of here is someone who was a bit of a larrikin or lad in their youth, and this is reflected in the odd public nuisance offence, in their early 20s, for example, peeing on the fence behind the pub, possibly receiving stolen goods, driving while disqualified, for being a rev head and having a large number of traffic offences that may be taken as evidence of a poor attitude toward public safety rules.

Some may even have served a short prison sentence.  Short sentences were often dished out by Magistrates as a wake-up call to those people who repeatedly behaved in an anti social way, tried the Courts patience, and were considered to be at risk of moving to more serious criminal activity. These short sentences have to some extent now been replaced by home detention bracelets.

As a rule, this type of sentence is long enough to drive home the point that the Court is not prepared to tolerate their behaviour. Together with the loss of freedom and dignity and the provision of a lot of time to think, this often promotes behaviour change.

If someone who has such a past wants a licence they need to be able to demonstrate that they have changed, and that they are now responsible.  This can take some time and some conscious efforts.

Suggestions are to move away from old associates and develop new ones who are pillars of, or at least law abiding, members of the community. They need to be compliant with the road laws and ensure that their vehicles are always registered and they have current driving licences. Hold down a job, do courses, work at improving themselves.

One client asked if I meant he needed to find god.  My answer to that ‘is only if you truly believe’.  Be yourself.  Make some sort of contribution to the local community, if you have children, join the P&C, become involved in fundraising for it, or support your kids’ sports club.

Some clubs and associations may wish to run a criminal record check.  Here, be honest. Indicate to club officials before this happens that you have some form, and be honest about what it is. Indicate that you are not like that anymore, and that you have turned a page.  As long as your offence is not too horrific, one of the great things about Australians is that they will give a person in your situation, who is honest with them, a fair go.  After all, the worst that can happen is that at first they may not trust you with the cash tin!

After putting a bit of distance between the offences and where you are now, consider applying for a licence.  Be prepared for a knock back, and the need to appeal.

I find if you have genuinely turned over a new leaf, and there are no new convictions, or ‘chatter’ on Police databases indicating that you are still a risk, and we can produce referees who can speak well of you, you are likely to succeed on appeal.

I was recently dealing the good fellows at Highgrove gun shop in Melbourne.  We got talking about gun laws, and they had not realised that I am more than happy to help people in Victoria with Firearms problems.

I have handled quite a number of firearms matters south of the border with good success, and keep up to date with Victorian laws.  If you have a problem there, I am more than willing to help.




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