Police Policies Force Farmers To Avoid Seeking Mental Health Help


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If the past few years have not been hard enough for farmers, the Queensland Police Weapons Licensing Branch has made it next to impossible for them to seek professional services for “psychiatric or emotional problems”, “alcohol or drug-related problems”, or “physical impairment” without risking their firearms licence.

The Shooters Union Australia is calling this over-reach out as firearms owners are getting caught between a rock and a hard place when accurately filling out their firearms application form.

Media Release

QUEENSLAND farmers and primary producers are being forced to choose between their livelihoods and their mental health under ill-considered policies implemented by the Queensland Police Service.

The police Weapons Licensing Branch (WLB) firearms licence application and requires people to declare if they have received treatment for, among other things, “psychiatric or emotional problems”, “alcohol or drug-related problems”, or “physical impairment”.

Ticking the “Yes” box requires a doctor’s certificate “certifying that the condition(s) do not affect your ability to possess or use a weapon”.

Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park said WLB were trying to make it all sound very reasonable, but the reality and implementation was extremely different, with considerable overreach, delays, and potential expense involved.

“The sign-off they require from doctors isn’t a generic ‘Yes, John Smith is my patient and his medical issues do not affect his ability to safely own or use a firearm’, it’s quite a detailed declaration regarding the patient’s history and treatment with the GP, and may even require a supporting statement from a specialist on top of that,” he said.

“GPs and specialists are also essentially asked to guarantee the applicant’s future behaviour, which is more or less impossible – not to mention a hugely unreasonable ask of already overworked medical providers.

“There’s also the fact that it’s not the 1970s anymore and huge numbers of people don’t have a regular ‘family doctor’ anymore, and instead just go to a bulk billing clinic to see whichever GP is available at the time.

“Combine a busy GP who doesn’t really know the patient except from file notes, a general wariness of firearms in the medical community, and concerns over liability from signing off on someone as suitable to have a gun forever, and you’ve got a recipe for the medico to put it in the ‘no thanks’ basket and decline to sign the paperwork.”

Mr Park said the end result was farmers or primary producers who might be experiencing mental health issues were essentially forced to choose between seeking help or losing their gun licences (and by extension, their ability to effectively manage their farms) – ironically making their mental health situation worse.

“Mental health issues have enough stigma around them without Weapons Licensing deciding that everyone who did the right thing and got help for something common deserves another kick in the teeth for their trouble,” he said.

He stressed Shooters Union agreed it was important for significant, ‘required intensive treatment or hospitalisation’- level mental health issues to be taken into account when deciding firearms licence applications, but broadly felt the medical standards should otherwise be the same as for a driver’s licence.

“Driving a car is incredibly dangerous – you’re operating more than a tonne of metal at speeds of up to 110km/h, frequently with almost nothing separating you from someone coming the other way doing the same thing except for a painted white line in the road and maybe a metre or two of distance,” he said.

“The Department of Transport don’t care if you needed to see a doctor for a bit of help because you have a stressful job or the crop failed again or a close friend died and you weren’t coping brilliantly, because that’s got nothing to do with safely operating a vehicle.

“They care if you have epilepsy or suffer blackouts, because those things genuinely can affect someone’s ability to drive safely – and it should be the same standard for firearms licences.”

CONTACT DETAILS:

President Graham Park: president@shootersunion.com.au or 0418 700 320

Media director Royce Wilson: media@shootersunion.com.au or 0410 645 035


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