NSW Regs: Waking up to 10 years in jail

NSW shooters could face 10 years in prison when they wake up on the day new gun regulations are put in place, while some will be forced to surrender licenses and others will be refused permission to buy new firearms.

The proposed Firearms Regulations 2012 for NSW, which were leaked to us by an industry source, include an enormous number of changes that will make shooting almost unviable, covering the spectrum from individuals through clubs to dealers and the security industry.

As we reported earlier, the state government tried to push the proposed regulations through the Firearms Consultative Committee, but after objections by committee members they were withdrawn to be revised.

How far those revisions go is not at all clear, but in their current guise they are a clear attempt to damage the trade, hobble clubs and reduce the number of licensed shooters in NSW.

“We face the worst threat to legal firearms ownership, the trade, hunting, ranges, clubs, the whole bloody works, since 1996,” Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsak, who sits on the FCC, said after Sporting Shooter published its first report.

Borsak had already seen the proposed regulations, and we understand he was one of the FCC members who helped block them.

“We are on the job, hunters. It’s not easy but we are always on the job.

“Get the word out there,” he told shooters via the Australian Hunting Net forum. “Every shooter in the state needs to know that the fight is on big time.”

The following points are some of the main clauses that will impact on sporting shooters as individuals. In upcoming stories, we will look at their impact on the trade, clubs and other parts of the sport.

Legitimate reason

Would-be firearm buyers already have to prove a genuine reason for having a shooting licence, and that licence limits them to the categories of firearms that are approved for that reason. The new regulations add a clause that allows the Police Commissioner to refuse a PTA if the buyer does not also have a “legitimate reason” for buying the firearm.

This was previously the case, but the need for a genuine reason was unnecessary and irrelevant. It was dropped when the SFP successfully lobbied against it.

Its return is therefore unwelcome. The real worry, however, is that it gives police discretion to knock back a purchase for virtually any reason. You already have a .22? Then you have no reason for another. You can’t prove you need the ballistics of a .308? Go away. (Keep in mind that the Ammunition Bill recently introduced but not yet in operation will likely require you to nominate a calibre before a PTA is issued.) You already own three rifles? You don’t legitimately need any more. You want to inherit granddad’s old Lithgow .303 just for sentimental reasons? There’s no room for sentimentality in guns, son.

Written permission

If you’re hunting on private property in NSW, the regulations currently state you must have either written permission, or supply a statutory declaration saying you have permission. In either case, you have 48 hours to provide it to authorities.

The new regulations drop both the stat dec and the 48-hour period of grace. In other words, you must carry written permission with you at all times when hunting on private property, even if it’s your brother’s or neighbour’s farm. No more handshake agreements.

No definition of a shortened firearm

The current regulations define a shortened firearm by stating minimum barrel, stock and overall lengths for various types of longarm. These definitions have been removed, meaning that any shortened longarm effectively becomes illegal.

As such, you will not be able to shorten a stock by a few centimetres to provide a better fit if you are a small person or for juniors. Nor will you be able to repair the damaged crown of a barrel by lopping the end off and re-crowning it. If you re-barrel or re-stock a rifle, the end result would have be at least as long as the original.

The Firearms Act allows for the issue of a permit to shorten a firearm, so perhaps you will have to jump through this hoop to trim your stock.

The Act states you may not possess a shortened firearm, so that .22 you previously modified to fit your son could earn you up to 10 years in prison.

Safe storage before a PTA is issued

The new regulations would require a person to have security in place before even applying for a permit to acquire. Currently, the requirement is that safe storage arrangements are made before a shooter can possess a firearm, but now it must be in place before permission is granted to purchase.

The problem here is that a first-time firearm buyer (or first time in a new higher firearm category) will have to fork out money and take the time to install a safe before even knowing if he or she is allowed to buy a gun to put in it.

The issuing of a permit to acquire does not necessarily mean the buyer will actually buy a firearm in the end.

This is not just an unnecessary clause, given it’s already illegal own a firearm without the proper level of safe storage in place, it’s a punitive burden that puts the cart before the horse.

Disabled shooters

Currently, there are circumstances where a handgun permit may be issued to a disabled person who struggles to use a longarm for, say, farming or hunting. The new regulations would prevent those people from ever using a longarm unless, perhaps, they are also a target shooter.

There are times when a disabled person on their own may need to use a handgun, particularly a primary producer who needs to dispatch a sick animal. However, at other times, there may be people around to assist them to use a more appropriate firearm, for example, when spotlighting from a seated position in a vehicle.

Apart from being discriminatory, this clause will simply make life harder for people who already do it tough, and there is no reason for it.

Reduced notification time

In almost all regulations in NSW, citizens must notify change of addresses or similar details within 14 days of the change. For firearm owners, this will be halved to seven days. No justification is provided, and this looks like yet another punitive measure.




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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.