Blame-game for the WA murders backfires on the government 

Western Australia Government attempts to blame a shocking domestic violence related murder-suicide on the state’s gun laws have spectacularly backfired, with the Premier, Police Minister  and Police Commissioner now under siege over reported WAPOL failures in the lead-up to the killings.

Following the murder of Floreat women Jennifer Petelczyc and Gretl Petelczyc by Mark Bombara last week, WA Premier Roger Cook and Police Minister Paul Papalia were quick to announce their plans to make the upcoming draconian gun laws even tougher, including hinting that some post-1947 handguns might be banned from collector’s licences.

Premier Roger Cook even went so far as to say “we [the Cook Government] will do whatever the police ask us”, which raises some concerning questions about the separation of powers in Western Australia.

However, the anti-licensed gun owner narrative was almost immediately torpedoed by the murderer’s daughter, Ariel Bombara, who publicly stated she and her mother had attempted, on at least three occasions involving at least five police officers, to warn police of her father’s violent changes and that he had access to firearms – and they had fled their home in March amidst concerns for their safety.

According to Ariel, she specifically expressed concerns that one of her father’s handguns was unaccounted for.

Police reportedly accompanied the Bombara women to their home to retrieve personal belongings, well aware Mark Bombara had guns – yet apparently this state of affairs was not enough to trigger a firearm confiscation, despite it explicitly being allowed under the state’s existing gun laws.

What is particularly interesting is that the media actually seems to agree that WA’s new gun laws would not have prevented the tragedy, and Mark Bombara was almost certainly going to seriously injure or kill someone eventually even without access to firearms.  

The West Australian newspaper journalists Ben Harvey and Josh Zimmerman have been particularly forthright in their skewering of the Cook Government narrative. 

Harvey used his Up Late segment on 28 May to make a number of painfully true observations, including: 

  • the police already had powers under the Firearms Act to seize the guns of people deemed a threat
  • the planned firearms limits are irrelevant to this offence
  • the proposed mental health checks under the new laws had almost zero chance of picking anything up – and will probably crush the state’s mental health system when introduced because of the sheer numbers of people who will be forced to engage with it.

Josh Zimmerman, writing in The West Australian on 29 May, said, “Guns make it easy to take a life – but there are no shortage of men who have killed their partners without one”.

“What now appears to be a major failing on the behalf of support systems for women fleeing DV — which include WA Police but extend to other agencies — has been weaponised as a political tool,” he said.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The West Australian without a “guns are scary and bad” story too, which they dutifully provided on 30 May with a front-page story headlined “Gun Crazy” and featuring an image of a bunch of presumably “scary” guns — including, bizarrely, a Nambu Type 14 Japanese WWII service pistol, for which ammo has not realistically been available since 1945.

The story claims there are 151,404 registered guns in Perth (everyone outside WA: “Is that all?”) and utterly misses the point that there are 151,404 guns not owned or being used by criminals in Perth.

There are almost certainly more than 151,404 bottles of beer, wine and spirits in Perth, but no-one seems to think that’s a problem despite the well-known links between alcohol and death, dangerous activities, chronic illness and social issues.

Furthermore, despite the sensationalist front page, the story is really about how many guns WAPOL have seized for domestic violence matters — clearly a damage control exercise on WAPOL’s part, and not surprising given the flak being directed at the authorities over the incident.

It’s also stating the obvious to point out there are plenty of unregistered guns in Perth, owned by criminals who certainly have zero intention of getting a gun licence or abiding by the ridiculous requirements of the new laws. 

Of course, the authorities don’t know where those unregistered guns are, so it’s much easier to go after the law-abiding people who have licensed and registered firearms.

Clearly, there is going to be a coroner’s investigation into the murders, along with a WAPOL internal inquiry, and shooters across the country are keenly awaiting the reports.

It also seems very clear that the tragedy in Floreat is symptomatic of a policing and administration problem, not a gun problem — and that WA Premier Roger Cook and Police Minister Paul Papalia have been caught out trying to blame the dog for their own flatulence.




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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.

One Comment

  1. Papalia doesn’t even support his own officers, so why would he listen to firearm owners. I like the comment about the dog, sums up the Premier and the Police Minister perfectly. The police failed this mother and daughter on 3 occasions, but it’s legitimate firearm owners that are collectively to blame.