Gun industry hampered by poor police performance, but with one notable exception

The firearms industry in most of Australia is unhappy with the performance of the police firearms registries that regulate it, except in NSW where there has been a large change for the better.

Across Australia, only a third of firearm dealers believe the regulators are performing to acceptable standards, according to the industry-wide Regulator Performance Survey by the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA).

However, the nationwide figures are skewed upwards by excellent results from NSW with an overall positive rating of 81%, in marked contrast to the dissatisfaction felt in Queensland (80% dissatisfied), Victoria (73% dissatisfied) and Western Australia (75% dissatisfied).

The results are an important indicator of the effect regulators have on the functionality of the industry, which relies on their work to be able to operate efficiently and remain financially healthy, according to SIFA.

If transfers and licences are not processed in a timely fashion, or other delays are introduced into the heavily regulated system, dealerships face potentially crippling cashflow problems and cannot properly serve their customers.

NSW was the poster child of SIFA’s second annual survey, swinging from an overall satisfaction rating of just 35% in 2023 to its remarkable 81% in 2024. 

“This can be attributed (at least in part) to NSW’s investment in modern digital support systems, a preparedness to explore problem areas brought to them by industry, and overall increase in industry communication and consultation,” SIFA CEO James Walsh said.

The NSW registry rated well among dealers in all three key areas of the survey — processing times (75% positive compared with 55% in 2023), customer service (69%, up from 50%) and communication (69%, up from 45%).

The industry in Queensland is the most frustrated group. Dissatisfaction improved marginally from 83% to 80% but satisfaction decreased slightly from 17% to 13%.

The Victorian police suffered the greatest loss in faith, dissatisfaction increasing from 61% last year to 73%, with a commensurate drop in satisfaction from 26% to just 14%.

Victoria was the only regulator to score a 100% dissatisfaction score in any part of the survey, with every respondent being unhappy with its processing times. 

In WA, the regulator’s overall negative rating improved from 83% to 75% — still a poor result — though positive sentiment only rose from 11% to 13%. 

However, that overall figure was influenced entirely by improved processing times, while industry satisfaction with both customer service and communication were significantly worse, leading to a result which was “not unexpected with the heavy-handed introduction of the WA Firearms Bill 2024, and the way that the WA Police have conducted the reform process,” according to the SIFA report.

The figures from other states and territories were too small to provide a statistically worthwhile result.     

SIFA stated that publishing the results from dealers in smaller jurisdiction might also “remove respondent anonymity”. This raises questions about whether the industry fears regulators would react punitively to dealers identified as being critical of the them.

SIFA aims to use the data to push for improved regulator performance over the next few years.

“SIFA will now represent these results to each jurisdiction, where we will seek commitment from each to remediate the issues and concerns, commit to a guaranteed level of service, and work with us to ensure our industry is regulated by professional standards, and in a manner that assists businesses within our industry, rather than constantly hinder with poor quality services,” Mr Walsh said.

He added SIFA must “ensure that the needs of industry are incorporated into the design and deployment of the National Firearms Registry. To date, that has not occurred.” 




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Mick Matheson

Mick grew up with guns and journalism, and has included both in his career. A life-long hunter, he has long-distant military experience and holds licence categories A, B and H. In the glory days of print media, he edited six national magazines in total, and has written about, photographed and filmed firearms and hunting for more than 15 years.