NSW Regs: Crippling impacts for clubs and ranges

Impositions on clubs and ranges in new firearm regulations are nothing more than a further clampdown on the shooting sports, as there is no direct safety benefit from any of them.

The proposed new firearm regulations in NSW would add significant burdens to clubs and ranges thanks to a series of changes that are almost entirely without justification.

Hunters will become a burden to ranges, range operators could be penalised for work on range premises, clubs will have to justify their existence every five years and shooters’ security will be put at risk.

The leaking of the regulations has exposed the depth of the regulatory push by police to strangle legal shooting, and this latest move in NSW is regarded as an example of where other states are headed.

The NSW regulations have been described as potentially worse than Western Australia’s infamous anti-shooting regime, and they certainly provide police with greater ammunition to use against law-abiding firearm owners.

In the third of our articles on the proposed NSW Firearms Regulations 2012, we look at how they will impact on shooting clubs and ranges.

New requirement to supervise shooters

Ranges would be forced to provide a person to supervise non-competitive shooters using the range, adding a massive burden of manpower and potentially cost to the operation of the range. The wording would allow police to interpret this as meaning one-on-one supervision, too.

This new clause applies to all range users whose reasons for holding a licence are things like primary production, hunting or vermin control – almost everyone except target shooters. Sighting in, practice and load development by these shooters would become a huge imposition on ranges.

Shooters have been using ranges to sight in and practice for as long as target shooters have been competing on them, without such supervision being necessary. There is no reason for this new requirement.

It is made that much more onerous by the fact that all names and licence numbers of shooters requiring supervision are recorded for the police.

Penalties for modifying ranges

The new regulations would make it an offence to alter a shooting range without police permission, which at face value may appear logical, but a worrying lack of detail in the definitions means that replacing shooting benches or concreting the floor of the firing line would be illegal unless the Police Commissioner signs off on it. Even a lick of paint on the clubhouse could be caught up in this new penalty.

As the penalty would also apply to mobile ranges, changing the tow hitch on the trailer would be an offence.

Anything that relates to the safety of a range would arguably be a fair thing for this penalty, but the regulations as they stand would create a major trap for all range operators.

Another new penalty makes it an offence to use any firearm or participate in any event not approved for the range. This need for such approvals in itself is something shooting organisations are trying to get rid of. They argue there should be a list of firearms and activities specifically excluded from particular ranges, rather than having to get everything specifically approved.

Five-year limit on clubs

No shooting club would last more than five years unless it gained re-approval by the police. As the police can already revoke a club licence for any reason, there’s no need to limit clubs to a five-year lifespan.

This clause means if a club does not gain re-approval by a certain date, it effectively ceased to exist. If paperwork is lost or, as has been the case in other states, the police fall behind their workload and fail to process paperwork on time, clubs would not be able to operate legally, and this could have significant flow-on effects for individual shooters who are required to attend a minimum number of club events in order to keep their licences.

There is no apparent benefit to this new five-year limit, and it can only been seen as another attempt to hobble the shooting sports. Each application will cost $100, too.

Monthly club reports

More club resources would be sucked into bureaucratic compliance by the introduction on monthly reporting to the police. Dropped from the 2006 regulations because it was deemed unnecessary and onerous, the monthly reporting would have to include any changes of personal details by club members, as well as a list of who has left the club or failed to renew membership.

The 2006 regulations demand that this reporting be done annually.

Privacy concerns

Club officials would be permitted to get details of every firearm registered to any of their club’s members, something that already applies to pistol owners because of the need for clubs to carefully plot the many different attendance requirements that are based on pistol ownership. That limit to pistols would be removed.

In a world where everyone can be trusted, this might not be a problem, but a corrupt club official could access information that would be valuable to criminals. The potential for theft of Category D or higher firearms would make this kind of information very desirable to criminal networks.

Shooters already know what attendances they are required to do for their class of licence, and the onus can be left on them, not clubs, to monitor it. Clubs can provide general reminders, as the SSAA does, for example, but there is no need to put shooters’ safety and security at risk by opening up access to sensitive information.




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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.