Queensland is about to enact “the toughest gun laws in the country,” but the Police Minister claims they will only punish criminals and will provide benefits for licensed shooters.
The Weapons and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2012, tabled last night in state parliament by Police Minister Jack Dempsey, will also streamline laws governing legitimate shooters, the first clear move by the government to act on its promise to cut red tape.
An amnesty will coincide with the enactment of the laws, in which unlicensed people can surrender firearms and licensed shooters can register them.
The new laws revolve around harsh new penalties for serious gun crimes, along with mandatory sentencing in many situations.
However, they are tempered by clauses that allow for a ‘reasonable excuse’ as a defence, and holding a firearm licence is considered one of those reasonable excuses. A licence does not necessarily mitigate against being found guilty, nor receiving a lesser sentence.
“The new sentencing regime is not intended to capture licensed firearms owners who fail to renew their licence or find themselves unlicensed due to administrative processes beyond their control,” Mr Dempsey said
SSAA Queensland president Geoff Jones said the bill appeared to be a genuine attempt to target criminal misuse of firearms without pulling law-abiding shooters into the net.
“It is underpinned by ‘reasonable excuse’, which should give people who make an honest mistake a fair opportunity to defend their position,” he said.
He said the SSAA would watch what happened under the new laws, to see if legal shooters were being caught out and hit with harsher penalties for offences that wouldn’t fall under the intent of the legislation.
The government’s recently formed Weapons Advisory Panel, made up of shooters and the industry, appears to be having a positive effect on the Queensland gun regime, and Mr Dempsey acknowledged its input.
Among the improvements shooters will enjoy under the new laws are:
- Category A and B firearm licences will last 10 years, up from five
- reduced reporting requirements for pistol clubs and firearm dealers
- permits to acquire will last six months, up from three
- recognition of interstate and foreign licences when determining the issuing of Queensland licences.
“It is anticipated that further red tape reduction initiatives will be identified by the Weapons Advisory Panel, which has agreed to continue to work with me during a second phase of weapons review,” Mr Dempsey said.
The bill has been tabled in parliament, but still has a way to go before being approved.