Tasmania restricts ownership of antique firearms after police given Ministerial powers

Tasmanian Police Commissioner Donna Adams has declared 19th century muskets are a public safety threat and revoked the exemption to the state’s Firearms Act which allowed people to own them as antiques and curios without a full gun licence.

The move, which has been widely condemned by antique and collectible firearms groups as well as the broader shooting community, came without warning and without any consultation via a notice that Ms Adams had revoked an exemption which had been in effect since 1997.

Antiques like this Pattern 1839 Tower Musket are now considered a public safety risk in Tasmania

Pre-1900 muzzleloading or obsolete-cartridge firearms were now being treated the same as “modern” guns, requiring a firearms licence and secure storage.

No compelling reason was given for the change, although the letter from TASPOL to firearms representative organisations stated that “Excluding this category of firearms is not consistent with the intent of the Act or the expectations of the Tasmanian community with regard to licensing, registration and storage provisions for other types of firearms”.

No evidence was provided to support these assertions.

In the letter, police also claimed there were concerns around people owning pre-1900 firearms which could fire modern ammunition as “antiques”; again, no evidence was provided to prove this was a genuine issue warranting such a heavy-handed response.

Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park said the changes would be farcical if they didn’t have such serious ramifications for collectors, antiquarians and historians.

“Are Police Commissioner Donna Adams and Police Minister Felix Ellis worried that Blackbeard and his roving band of pirate cut-throats are planning to reappear in Tasmania?” he asked.

“No other state in Australia treats pre-1900 muzzleloading longarms being held as curios or antiques as modern firearms, and there is absolutely no reason for Tasmania to be any different.

“There are no records of violent crimes being committed with these guns for more than a century, and the overwhelming majority of these guns are hanging on walls or being displayed in private.

“Most of them simply aren’t fireable anymore due to their age, and I doubt there are any criminals out there who would even know how to load and fire a musket – even if they could even get the powder, shot and percussion caps, which they generally can’t.

“Deciding old, barely functional muskets are the same as modern guns and require a licence and gun safe is just going to result in people handing these valuable historical items in for destruction because they don’t want to, or can’t, obtain a licence and safe just to keep a 150-year old wall-hanger around.

“We’re absolutely disgusted at how this change has been announced without any consultation and with absolutely zero evidence or legitimate rationale to back it up, and will be working to get the situation changed.”

Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party Tasmania secretary Phillip Bigg also vocally blasted the changes, saying they had come about because of recent changes to the state Firearm Act that placed a lot of Ministerial functions in the hands of the Police Commissioner instead.

“It is absolutely unforgivable that the Police Minister changed all references of ‘Minister’ to ‘Commissioner’ in the new Act, dissolving his responsibilities under the Act and leaving the Police Commissioner to run solo,” he said.

“While briefing the legislative council last year on the Firearms Amendment Bill 2023 I called for a tougher stance on criminal activity with firearms and nothing changed, but yet here we are going after historical items because they were able to be held via exemption rather than being included in the Firearms Act.

“Absolutely every shooter in Tasmania, as well as everyone concerned about significant changes being made by unelected people, needs to be contacting the Police Minister and their local MP about this issue right way. 

“Don’t just say ‘Well, I don’t collect antiques so this doesn’t affect me’ – that attitude is why things are so difficult for gun owners generally.

“Even if you aren’t an antique gun collector, you should be horrified someone you’d probably never heard of until recently has the power to unilaterally make sweeping changes without consulting with the community or going through any of the other processes, checks and balances it would usually involve.”




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Royce Wilson

Royce is something rare in Australia: A journalist who really likes guns. He has been interested in firearms as long as he can remember, and is particularly interested in military and police firearms from the 19th Century to the present. In addition to historical and collectible firearms, he is also a keen video gamer and has written for several major newspapers and websites on that subject.