Thursday, March 15, 2018

Tasmanian Election in Australia Looks Good for Gun Law Reforms

The Tasmanian win of the Liberal party in Australia may lead to reforms in Tasmania's gun laws.

The extreme gun laws in effect in Australia were railroaded through at break-neck speed in 1996, on the heels of mass murder at Port Arthur in Tasmania. After 20 years of having little effect, except to criminalize many ordinary acts of rural Australians, regulatory reform consistent with democratic rule in a republic is taking place.

Taking the harsh edges off the law has been happening in several Australian states. Queensland has increased the term of class C and D licensees from 1 to 5 years. Class C allows for semi-automatic rimfire rifles of 10 shots or less, and semi-automatic and pump shotguns with a capacity of 5 rounds or less. Class D allows for  centerfire or rimfire semi-automatic rifles with a capacity of more than 10 rounds, or semi-automatic or pump shotguns with a capacity of more than 5 rounds.

In New South Wales, the police have been granted the discretion to charge a fine for minor breeches of the storage laws, or to simply require immediate compliance. The old law mandated criminal charges, termination of firearms license, and confiscation of the firearms involved.

Donald Eykamp may be the poster boy for the extreme harshness of the law. After being charged with relatively minor storage violations, he lost his gun license, paid over $10,000 in fines, and had $150,000 dollars of collectible super grade pre-1964 model 70 Winchester rifles and antique Colt muzzle loading revolvers confiscated. Donald had no prior criminal convictions. His firearms were at his farm, where he was living alone.

To most Americans, the laws appear insanely strict, repressive, and irrational. Many Australians think the same, and have been moving to reform the laws and make them more rational and reasonably administered.

Prior to 1996, Tasmania had the least repressive gun laws in Australia.

The Liberal  party in Tasmania is closer to American conservative philosophy than to the far left. Before the 2018 election, the party was working on commonsense reforms in response to concerns about absurdities in the state gun laws. The promised reforms were released to the public about a month before the election, on 9 February, by sending them to firearms owners.

In the months before the Tasmanian election, the leftists media in Australia was busy pushing for the ouster of the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce. Joyce was involved in a minor sexual scandal.  The media succeeded in ousting Joyce from the Deputy P.M position, but had not been demonizing the firearms reforms percolating in Tasmania.

The Liberals in Tasmania were poised to win another four years. The election would be held on 3 March. The Australian national media attempted to derail their election by proclaiming the gun reforms to be underhanded and dangerous, the day before the election. The ploy did not work, and the Liberals won a majority of the seats.

Rene Hidding, Minister for Police, Fire, and Emergency Management said the reforms were nearly identical to those proposed by the leftist Labor party. From the Liberal website:
The extraordinary hypocrisy of the Labor Party has been highlighted again today criticising our firearms policy despite Labor having a near-identical policy position.
Here is a summation of the reforms promised by the Liberals in Tasmania:

Establish the Tasmanian Firearms Owners Council
(made up of firearms owners and other stakeholders)

Improve the interaction between Firearms Services and firearms owners - and higher service levels

(includes a digital platform where every Tasmanian firearms owner can manage their license and registration requirements, and a promise to end delays and waiting times for licensing and permits)

Establishing a new Tasmanian competition shooting range

(to be available to all shooting clubs in Tasmania)

Broader firearms training and testing provisions

(ending the monopoly on training and testing that now exists. There are only 3 firearms testers for all of Tasmania, creating severe delays.)

Extend periods of licences

(doubling the term of A and B licenses to 10 years, and C licenses to two years)

Infringement notices for minor storage offenses

(this allows for an infringment notice, rather like a traffic ticket, instead of summons to court as a crime)

Finalize an MOU between the Government, Tasmania Police and the Tasmjanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA)

(Many reasonable reforms here, such as clarifying arrangements for target pistol events between jurisdictions, allowing more than one club to have members that use semi-auto shotguns for clay target shooting, reforming the definition of "manufacture" to allow for repair and assembly of firearms, allow for the practical reloading of ammunition, developing a protocol for militaria and re-enactment groups, and removing the requirement for trigger locks on inoperative antique pistols. Allow agricultural contractors to obtain the highly regulated class C licenses, and allow them to obtain suppressors for their work.)

The Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers party ran candidates in Tasmanian for the first time during this election.  The Liberal party ran on a push that only a majority government could deliver on its promises. From
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Tasmania chairman, and election candidate, Wayne Turale said Firearms Services had been under-resourced and mismanaged for some time, delivering conflicting regulatory information to gun owners.

With only three firearms trainers in the state, Mr Turale said there were lengthy delays in allowing people to obtain licences.

Mr Turale said farmers had been charged by police for carrying unlocked weapons in their vehicles while crossing public roads which ran through their property.

Notably, he was pleased to see that prohibition of guns with a ‘‘military appearance’’ would be reviewed, saying competition shooters using custom-fitted firearms had been affected.

‘‘Firearms should be assessed on the action, not how they look,’’ Mr Turale said.

He said police officers needed better firearm training, beyond service pistol use, and there needed to be standard operations procedures implemented for future firearm inspections.
The reforms expected in Tasmania move the regulatory scheme away from one designed to punish legitimate firearms owners and shooters, and to reduce their numbers, to one where the regulations are administered fairly and competently for  legitimate activities.

It will be interesting to see if the Liberal party follows through with their promises. It is not easy to do in the face of intense opposition by the Australian national media.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

the Liberals do not have control of the Upper House in Tas. so its unlikely the laws will get 'passed'....
they're too tepid to make much of a difference any-way.....
these are the sort of new laws we require here in AU;