Thursday, August 31, 2017

Australian Gun Culture Part 20: Abuse Leads to Gun Law Reform

When I arrived in Australia, one of the first stories was about how the so called "sensible gun laws" were not so "sensible" for people in rural Australia. I related the Donald Eykamp case about how interpretation of minor storage infractions lead to the confiscation of hundreds of thousands of dollars of highly collectible and historic firearms. It appears that sort of abuse has lead to reform in the firearms law.  The Eykamp case is in the process of appeal. A decision from the appeals court has been due any day for the last month.

The case has been in process since March 14, 2015. At that time, the law read that any guns found in violation of the safe storage laws had to be confiscated. Donald Eykamp paid about eighteen thousand dollars of fines, and about that much in lawyers fees. On June 14th, 2016, the court ruled that the firearms should be turned over to a dealer, sold, and the proceeds given to Donald Eykamp.

The police appealed almost immediately, arguing that the judge did not have the authority to order the guns sold, and they must destroy the firearms. The appeal has been ongoing for more than a year. 

In May, 2017, while the case was under appeal, the NSW government introduced a firearms reform bill that included a number of provisions. Several of those provisions involved reform of the enforcement of storage requirements. The previous law required that when a person was found in violation of safe storage requirements, the firearms had to be confiscated. The reforms allowed the police to use some judgment and to levee a fine, similar to a traffic ticket, instead. From
Other changes include removing the requirement for gun owners to attend court and face a fine and/or a jail sentence for breaches of storage requirements. Instead, police will be able to issue a penalty notice.

As well, police will no longer be required to seize improperly stored firearms and ammunition if they are "satisfied that the failure has been rectified or will be rectified without delay".
The storage enforcement changes are a commonsense reform. They mean that minor violations of the law can be dealt with appropriately, rather than the draconian approach of mandatory confiscation. The Shooters and Fishers Party commented on the proposed changes:
 Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Borsak opposed the reclassification of lever action shotguns, but agreed that recording of addresses of people buying ammunition "only gives criminals a shopping list of where legally owned firearms are held".

He said storage control changes were "a smarter way of handling compliance amongst licensed, law-abiding firearms owners".
The proposed changes in the law passed Parliament in May. They should go into effect in November of 2017.

The Donald Eykamp case is the only one I know that challenged the police authority to decide the disposition of firearms in storage cases. A ruling is expected any day. Donald's Barrister, Bruce Donnelly, says the case may set precedent.

I expect to write more about the case as developments occur and circumstances allow.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch 


Anonymous said...

My concern is the big brother effect Not only the criminals get a shopping list but the other side of the coin is government has a shopping list. does any one reload in NSW or any where over there? I could not stand to live in a place like that. I can make guns, gun parts and do my own repairs. I have made several miniature black powder cannons. well drilling steel makes very good barrels.

Dean Weingarten said...

Reloading is done, and is becoming more popular all the time.

Dean Weingarten said...

Reloading is done, and is becoming more popular all the time.