The Australian firearms industry wants gun registries removed from police control and given to a “fit-for-purpose” regulator that meets expected standards of service and efficiency.
The call comes as a survey revealed the firearms industry’s confidence in state regulators was worryingly low.
Nearly half (48%) of firearms dealers said they were dissatisfied with their state firearm registry’s overall performance and customer service levels, and only 25% said they thought the registries were doing a reasonable job, according to the results of the latest survey by the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA).
The highest level of dissatisfaction was in the ACT and Western Australia, while the NT registry was the only one to achieve a positive result overall.
SIFA CEO James Walsh said licensed firearms businesses around Australia were constantly reporting issues with regulators failing to deliver on basic customer service.
The most common complaints ranged from calls and questions going unanswered to excessive delays in issuing routine permits and processing licenses.
Mr Walsh said SIFA believed a large part of the issue was that the firearms industry was regulated by law enforcement agencies rather than a dedicated fit-for-purpose regulator focussed on business and industry.
“Unfortunately, the Australian shooting industry is always viewed through the lens of law enforcement rather than proper industry regulation,” he said.
“We see over and over again where police make decisions without any transparency or consultation, and then when questioned over their decision making, they take an authoritarian approach to law-abiding businesses who are only trying to follow an extremely convoluted and complex legislative regime.”
Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park deals with firearms registries around the country and backed SIFA’s call for a move to a standalone firearms administration department.
“We’ve long called for firearms registries to be removed from police responsibility and run as a separate department, like the Department of Transport, with customer service standards and no direct enforcement capabilities,” he said.
“We’ve had some very productive engagement with the Weapons Licensing Branch in Queensland, who are making good-faith efforts to fix many of the issues, but that doesn’t change the fact it’s still taking a ridiculously long time for licences and PTAs to be issued.
“It’s not unknown for it to take weeks to get a response to email enquiries and still not have the question answered.
“The results from the other states are about what I’d expect – the staff are generally doing their best, but that doesn’t help dealers when they have challenges getting the information they need or find permits are being held up for whatever reason.”
The full results from SIFA’s survey will be published in the coming weeks.