A raft of new offences, many of which do not involve any public danger or personal violence, would disqualify people from obtaining a firearm licence, receiving a permit to acquire, or working in the firearm industry.
The NSW police bureaucracy tried to introduced the new offences recently are part of the state’s updated firearms regulations, members of the Firearms Consultative Committee reacted so angrily against the regulations that they have been withdrawn for a re-write.
In this fourth part of our special report into the proposed regulations, we look at how they would have clamped down on who is allowed to get into shooting, buy guns and work in the industry.
We have already covered the background to the regulations, their direct effect upon shooters, and how they would have impacted on clubs and ranges.
One of the most An offence committed in the previous 10 years involving any firearm part or ammunition would rule someone out, regardless of whether the part on its own could be a danger. Possession of a single .22LR round would potentially be enough. In other words, inconsequential offences could stop someone becoming a shooter or ruin someone’s career.
A new clause covers rioting, assaulting police and so on – serious offences that would conceivably prohibit the very people we don’t want in the industry. However, a closer reading shows that even someone who ‘harasses’ a police officer or law enforcement officer (a ranger, for example) is caught up by this.
Given that police regularly invoke the ‘holy trinity’ – drunk and disorderly, resist arrest and assault police – against young men who get a bit boisterous on a night out, the consequences of this clause on people’s sport, jobs and future business are far too high.
Currently, a conviction for causing bodily harm that resulted in a 28-day prison term or $200 fine, or more, would disqualify someone. Now, that level would be dropped to cover any offence of that kind is punishable by imprisonment, whether or not a prison term is handed down. A judge can rule that the circumstances of an offence meant a guilty person may have no conviction recorded, despite being technically guilty, yet this may not rule out the consequences for the person’s shooting future.
Consorting – the infamous ‘bikie laws’ – comes into the proposed regulations. The trouble with these laws is that you can unknowingly consort with criminals, and a recent case was reported of a law-abiding firearm owner contacting a gunsmith on an internet forum. The gunsmith had been arrested for firearm offences. The firearm owner apparently knew nothing of this and took a rifle to the gunsmith for repairs. As a result, the firearm owner was being investigated for consorting.
There are a number of other examples of where the regulations would tighten up on who can become a shooter, buy a firearm or work in the industry, including the security industry.
There is also one new regulations that would have caused huge anger in the paintball community. Paintball guns aren’t really firearms but they and the sport fall under firearm legislation. The industry has been pushing for many years to establish a minimum age of 12 years for players, nation-wide. The 2012 regulation would kill this hope in NSW by cementing a minimum of 16.
The point is where the line is drawn. The police already have the discretion to refuse any firearm-related application or cancel any licence for virtually any reason, so shooters and industry members are always kept on their toes. The entrenchment of tougher non-discretionary regulations can only be interpreted as a desire by authorities to take a firmer grip around the neck of lawful shooting sports in the state.