Legal Action for Gun Shop Closures

A place to put any news about action to reopen gun shops.

Dealers are mounting a legal challenge in Victoria to be able to trade firearms and ammo again.

In the legal bid, they will argue Victoria Police acted unlawfully by using section 69 of the Firearms Act – which relates to varying firearm licences – to ban transactions.

What conditions can be imposed on dealers? I don’t know enough to really make sense of the statute.

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The National Shooting Council has now filed legal proceedings in WA and QLD as well as the one that they have already done in VIC… Information below.

THE GUN SHOP FIGHT: The NSC has now filed legal proceedings in Western Australia and Queensland, adding to the action it is taking in Victoria to fight the restrictions that those states imposed on shooters.

That brings the number of actions we have filed to date to three - with the possibility of two more actions starting in the next few days.

The proceedings in WA (in the WA State Administrative Tribunal) relate to the rejection of licence applications while the one in Queensland (in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal) takes the closure of gun shops in that state head-on.

That means we are now leading legal actions in each of the states that have targetted shooters for political reasons.

Have you had your licence rejected in WA? Or do you run a gun shop in Vic or Qld?

If you have had had your licence application in WA declined because of COVID-19, or if you run a gun shop in Victoria or Queensland, then help yourself by becoming part of our action NOW.

To do this, just drop us an email at [email protected].

Our actions don’t yet cover the closure of gun shops in WA, but we are working on it. If you run a gun shop in WA, drop us a line so we can let you know if we do start another action in WA.

For those interested in seeing what the National Shooting Council is about, here is a link to their website, https://nationalshooting.org.au/

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National Shooting Council

17 hrs ·

URGENT: The NSC is considering launching a second legal action in WA on the limitations on gun shops in that state.

If you own a gun shop in WA, please contact us IMMEDIATELY. We have contacted - or tried to contact - as many as possible but some are more difficult to get hold of than others.

If we do launch a second action in WA, that will bring the number of actions we are taking nationally to four.

Update received today from NSC;

Hi everyone

This is our first update on the legal actions we are taking in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia as one single broadcast message to everyone who is helping us run these actions.

There isn’t much new information to share as of today, but are aware of developments that are likely to occur tomorrow (Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd) that we’ll be able to report on then including a story being developed by a major media outlet that will help our action significantly if it comes out soon.

However for now:

Victoria:

The Firearms Appeals Committee has received our application to stop the closure of our gun shops. The delay in having the paperwork received and processed has been significant despite using Express Post and regular emails – however the good news is that they are now paying attention to it and the Chair is considering a special application to have our hearing brough forward asap given the impact this is having on the industry.

We are about to enlist the support of a number of politicians to ensure this happens so we are hoping to know where the timing of a hearing is at this week. If we get that, then we will be very confident of getting the matter heard much sooner than originally anticipated. If we can’t get this resolved quickly enough then we can go to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal – but our legal people are saying that VCAT would reject an application if we didn’t try the FAC first.

Queensland:

The Queensland action was initiated last week after we were unable to confirm that another action up north was likely to proceed. While that other action may still happen, we felt it was necessary to step in and start this action as we can decide later on if we want to continue, or join that other action.

However for now, our action – as quickly assembled as it was - has been received by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal so we are now waiting for confirmation. The good news is that we can file for an interim order at QCAT so anticipating doing so today or tomorrow to stop the closures prior to the main hearing.

We need more gun shops in Queensland to join the action to give us the best chance of winning so if you happen to know any gun shop owners, please let them know or forward this email to them to get in contact with us. Like Victoria, we’re pretty confident about the legal grounds for action that we are relying on.

Western Australia:

The action we are taking in WA is a little different in that our main focus is to fight to help those shooters who have put in applications for new firearm licences (equivalent to permits-to-acquire) to continue with their transactions. We lodged our action with the State Administrative Tribunal on Monday and while we have not received anything official, the SAT has debited our credit card with the application fee which means that acknowledgement is imminent. We will seek an urgent hearing which we will do once we’ve got our reference number.

There was talk about an action being launched for dealers but we have not been able to confirm if that was actually going to happen. Like Queensland, if another action for dealers does happen then we would be happy to join that other action later on if we are able to However this is where we are struggling: while we have only been contemplating this for a few days, we are simply not hearing from enough WA dealers despite having called and emailed many of them. We are hoping those of you who are closer to them will be able to convince them to stand up to be counted. We have discussed the likely grounds of appeal with a WA based barrister and will decide on whether we will run an action for dealers in the next few days.

So that’s it for now folks. Again, sorry for what might seem an eternity to get something going as every day rolls by, but we’re pretty happy with how fast we have been able to fill the void that we have in our industry.

Overall we’re pretty comfortable with our legal arguments and approach - but even if we don’t win the cases, we will have demonstrated that our industry needs a body that is prepared to take legal action whenever it is needed – and we’ll fill that void if no-one else will.

Regards

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Things are going slowly but still moving.
Yesterday I received a phone call from a MP;

Hon. Simon O’Brien MLC
Deputy President and Chairman of Committees
Legislative Council
Parliament of Western Australia

He seemed pretty positive and wanted to help.
Hopefully It is the start of things to come.

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Newspaper articles about the lies told to close gun shops.

THE AGE
‘It’s a political thing’: Firearm industry fights coronavirus gun ban
For our free coronavirus pandemic coverage, learn more here.
Federal and state governments made no collective decision to ban the sale of firearms and ammunition as part of the coronavirus pandemic response, despite the insistence of Labor-run states that their bans were based on national cabinet deliberations. Multiple Canberra sources with knowledge of national cabinet discussions have told T h e A ge and T h e S y d n e y M o r n i n g H e r a l d that no decision was made regarding firearms and the limited discussion that did take place on the topic was not led by the Prime Minister.

The sources said Victoria and Western Australia proactively raised the topic of firearms during a national cabinet discussion in late March, but it was simply to provide the Prime Minister with lists of retail activities they were proposing to shut down. Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville announced “a decision of national cabinet to put a temporary ban” on access to firearms during a press conference on March 31. Queensland officials also referred to national cabinet playing a central role.
Standing alongside Ms Neville at the announcement, Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said more than double the average 1000 firearm applications were lodged during the final week of March. He also said the ban would reduce the amount of guns falling into the hands of criminals. Mr Patton did not make any assertions about national cabinet decisions. One senior Coalition source said the idea any of the states – which are responsible for regulating firearms – had banned sales on the basis of national cabinet deliberations was “horseshit”.
“It wasn’t a national cabinet decision,” the source said. “It was pretty well the states making their own decisions re firearms and the PM being OK with that.” The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment, citing national cabinet confidentiality. Responding to questions from T h e A ge and S y d n e y M o r n i n g H e r a l d , a spokeswoman for the Victorian government said the ban was made after “extensive discussion and deliberation” at national cabinet, but did not mention any collective “decision” of national cabinet.
The ban on sales has sparked a fierce reaction from the firearms industry, who feel they have been targeted.
The spokeswoman said the ban was enacted partly to ensure the increase in sales did not lead to firearms ending up in the hands of criminals at a time when police’s enforcement capacity is reduced due to the pandemic. With legal challenges to the bans underway in Victoria and Queensland, nonLabor states have shown little appetite for similar sales restrictions. Gun dealers and shooting groups disputed the rise in sales was a result of panicbuying. They said the increased demand was caused by shooters buying products before a 15 per cent price rise on many firearm products that was due to kick in on April 1, sparked by the drop in the value of the Australian dollar compared with the US dollar. The start of the duck-hunting season also contributed to the rise in demand, they said. Gun dealer Belinda Mann said she had been selling firearms to buyers in Liberal states like South Australia to generate income.
Gun owners who asked not to be named told T h e A ge they were aware of farmers travelling across the NSW border to buy ammunition for pest control. Firearm lobby groups are painting the moves as ideologically motivated. “It’s starting to look like a political thing because it’s only happening in the Labor states,” said Graham Park, president of the Shooters Union of Australia. “No non-Labor state at this point has even shown any interest and we have gotten letters back from several states saying ‘we have no interest in following that route’.” Victoria Police said it sought internal legal advice before the announcement of the ban. A spokesperson told T h e A ge the ban was required after an increase in ammunition sales that mirrored the panic-buying in other sectors. Dealers and other interest groups led by the National Shooting Council (NSC) last week lodged an appeal with Victoria’s Firearms Appeals Committee, an independent statutory body that reviews police decisions over licensing. They say the ban could put dozens of dealers out of business, and gun lobby groups have taken out newspaper ads protesting the bans. The NSC, which represents more than 8000 shooters nationwide, has experienced a four-fold increase in membership in Victoria this month because gun shop owners have rallied around the campaign to overturn the ban.

Gun shop owners who spoke to T h e A ge said their businesses would not survive the ban, for which the government has not announced an end date. The ban does not apply to farmers with primary producer licences, but many farmers with different licences – those who derive a significant income from nonfarming activities – are unable to buy ammunition to perform pest control. Sheep farmers in western Victoria said they had almost run out of ammunition to keep foxes off their property. “We are losing five to six sheep a night and burning them the next day because we can’t defend stock,” said one.

BRISBANE TIMES

Coronavirus gun sales ban in Labor states opens new policy battleground

The justification for bans on the sale of firearms and ammunition in three Labor controlled states has been questioned after it emerged the national cabinet had no active role in the moves, despite this being cited by state ministers and officials. Bans were introduced by governments in Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia at the end of last month as a response to the COVID-19 emergency. Victoria’s police minister Lisa Neville announced “a decision of national cabinet to put a temporary ban” on access to firearms at a press conference on March 31 and Queensland officials have also referred to national cabinet playing a central role.

In correspondence to lobby group the National Shooting Council last week, a staffer in Queensland Police Minister Mark Ryan’s office referred to “discussions in National Cabinet led by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison” having prompted chief health officers “around Australia” to implement bans. There is no suggestion Mr Ryan was aware of the staffer making that assertion. Multiple sources in Canberra have told B r i s b a n e T i m e s there was no national cabinet decision regarding firearms and the limited discussion that did take place was not led by the Prime Minister.
The sources said WA and Victoria had brought up the topic of firearms during a national cabinet discussion in late March, but it was simply to provide the Prime Minister with lists of retail activities they were proposing to shut down. One senior Coalition source said the idea any state had banned sales on the basis of national cabinet deliberations was “horseshit”. “It wasn’t a national cabinet decision,” the source said. “It was pretty well the states making their own decisions re: firearms and the PM being OK with that.” States are responsible for regulating firearms under an overarching policy known as the National Firearms Agreement. The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment, citing cabinet confidentiality. A spokeswoman for the Victorian government said the ban was made after “extensive discussion and deliberation” at national cabinet, but did not mention any collective “decision” of national cabinet. The spokeswoman said the ban was enacted partly to ensure the increase in sales did not lead to firearms ending up in the hands of criminals at a time when police’s enforcement capacity is reduced due to the pandemic.

With legal challenges to the bans on foot in Victoria and Queensland and nonLabor states showing no appetite for similar sales restrictions, the bans have made COVID-19 a new battleground over gun policy. Queensland’s Chief Health Officer imposed a total sales ban on March 27 that meant even police could not buy ammunition or gun parts, with claims police only learnt of the decision at the same time as dealers. Queensland agriculture and firearms lobby groups within days persuaded the Palaszczuk Labor government to allow sales to primary producers. With support from the LNP opposition, as well as One Nation and Katter Party MPs, they have since forced much wider concessions for much broader categories of rural shooters. Several dealerships have nonetheless sent legal letters to Queensland Health as a precursor to court action with a view to challenging the ban in its entirety. Victorian industry counterparts have already filed a legal challenge to sales bans, with lobby groups claiming it could put dozens of dealers out of business, and gun lobby groups have taken out newspaper ads protesting the bans. Dealers and other interest groups led by the Victoria-based National Shooting Council last week lodged an appeal with Victoria’s Firearms Appeals Committee, an independent statutory body that reviews police decisions over licensing.
‘No non-Labor state at this point has even shown any interest’
With little official information provided about the reasons for the bans, firearms lobby groups are painting the moves as ideologically motivated. “It’s starting to look like a political thing because it’s only happening in the Labor states,” said Graham Park, president of the Shooters Union of Australia, which is based in Queensland. "No non-Labor state at this point has even shown any interest and we have gotten letters back from several states saying ‘we have no interest in following that route’. “We don’t know why the other states did it.” Mr Park said the legal challenge in Queensland was needed to prevent future “overreach” by officials.

Authorities in WA and Victoria have cited public or community safety to explain their bans, without providing details, while no reasons were provided by Queensland Health when it added firearms to a list of “non-essential” retail types. AgForce policy officer Michael Allpass, who has been negotiating with the Queensland government on the issue, said AgForce “hasn’t been advised at all as to how the original decision was made (in Queensland)”. “I did ask for an explanation but I wasn’t given one,” he said. “There’s no rhyme or reason to it. People are just making decisions on the spot in uncertain times.” Victoria Police’s licensing and regulation branch wrote to firearms dealers in the state on March 31 advising them that as of midnight the previous night their licences had been varied to stop sales of guns and ammunition to anyone not holding an occupational licence. The email, obtained by B r i s b a n e T i m e s , stated: “Following a decision by National Cabinet, the Licensing and Regulation Division has been advised there will be a suspension of all firearm transactions including the sale, hire and loan of firearms and ammunition for the reasons of Sport or Target Shooting, Clay Target Shooting and Recreational hunting.” An attachment to the email said: "This decision has been made with the overall safety of the public in mind, ensuring people are not unnecessarily storing firearms and ammunition during an extremely difficult time for many in the community, which may be compounded by family and work-related pressures. “It also limits the number of unnecessary firearms and ammunition circulating in the community which have the potential to fall into the hands of criminals.” Victoria Police did not answer questions about the references in its statements to a national cabinet decision, referring inquiries to the Prime Minister’s office. WA Premier Mark McGowan said at the time of his government’s ban: “Given the closure of firearm sporting clubs and shooting venues, and the need to comply with social distancing, there is effectively no need for over-the-counter sales at gun stores.” In Queensland, Mr Allpass and Mr Park both said state government bureaucrats had attributed the move to deliberations in national cabinet. “They said, ‘oh, this has come out of national cabinet’ and I said I don’t understand, what has national cabinet got to do with it?” Mr Allpass said. Mr Park said that when his group had asked officials for the ban to be amended, he was told: “It has to go back to national cabinet.” “We said ‘why?’ And they wouldn’t answer,” Mr Park said. Mr Park, who sits on a state consultative committee for firearms regulation, said senior Queensland police officers had told him they had only found out about the sales ban when it was made public. The Queensland Police Service did not directly address questions about when it knew of the ban. A spokesman said that although police were responsible for regulating firearms, the QPS was also “compelled to adhere to all directions associated with emergency powers arising from the declared public health emergency”.
Hunting is an approved form of exercise in Tasmania
Most shooting ranges are closed under COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and NSW has closed public hunting access to state forests. States have not expressly banned hunting, however, and Tasmania has included it in a list of approved forms of exercise, although it, too, has banned public land hunting. There were spikes in sales of ammunition reported early last month but this has been attributed to anticipated price rises because of the fall in the Australian dollar. Some dealers even emailed customers last month warning them to stock up. “If you’re a target shooter or if you’re a farmer who uses a lot of ammunition, you would tend to go ‘oh, a 20-25 per cent increase, I think I’ll grab it now and put it away’ - it doesn’t go bad. It wasn’t some zombie apocalypse thing,” Mr Park said. The National Shooting Council, a Victoria-based group leading the legal challenge to that state’s ban, has predicted the shutdowns will cost the firearms industry $4 billion and has asked the federal government to consider a special rescue package. “There’s over 1000 dealers in Australia, not all of them are shops, some of them are mum-and-dad businesses that might supply a particular niche of the market,” the NSC’s Neil Jenkins said. “If they go out of business, we can’t see how they could recover.”

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National Shooting Council

QLD POLICE MINISTER SAYS LOCAL GUN SHOPS ARE HAPPY WITH BANS

IN ONE of the emails we received from the Queensland Police Minister, Mark Ryan, who was justifying the directive to clamp down on gun shop transactions, Mr Ryan told us something we thought was incredible.

In his email, Ryan referred to licensed weapons dealers and armourers as stakeholders and that it was important to listen to their feedback. As we all now know, the directive was amended to help primary producers – but not the recreational shooters.

While the amendment was some good news, it still leaves recreational shooters out on a limb. Still, a win by those who sought the amendment is a win which is good.

However what intrigues us is that Ryan had the audacity to tell us “As those key stakeholders have advised that the re-issued Health Directive satisfactorily addresses their concerns, no further amendments are being sought in respect of this Health Directive at this time.”

In other words, Mr Ryan is suggesting that dealers and armourers are happy with the re-issued directive, which we know is not correct. That’s why some of them are backing the action we have launched in QCAT.

Sorry Mr Ryan - thanks for the advice on the update to the direction but to say that the direction satisfactorily addresses industry’s concerns is not correct – and why we’ve taken your Chief Health Officer to QCAT.

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Latest update from the National Shooting Council;

Hi everyone

Here’s another quick update.

Victoria:

Today we were advised by the Firearm Appeals Committee that our request for an urgent hearing to keep our gun shops open had been granted. The proceedings will commence with a directions hearing on May 11. A directions hearing establishes the time and grounds for argument for the substantive hearing, so the matter will not be heard on that day but sets ‘the ground rules’ for the fight ahead. It is great result that we have been able to secure when the FAC is otherwise closed for business.

We will continue to prepare for proceedings with help from our legal counsel. This includes compiling a list of those police and government witnesses who we ask be called in to give evidence.

Western Australia

Earlier today, we lodged an application for an interim order to expedite our matter in WA. Obviously no word yet but we hope to learn more shortly. We are about to sign up a barrister to run the action there for us.

Queensland:

We anticipate lodging an interim order in Queensland in the next couple of days to try and hurry up that process.

The delays in doing this are that the whole legal system is now operating at crawling pace, but that will not deter us. If those of you in Victoria and Queensland know of other dealers who would like to join our action, please let me know asap. We have enough shooters to support our action in WA so it’s really just Vic and Queensland where we’d appreciate a few more names – but we’re pretty comfortable where we’re sitting in all three states at the moment.

More early next week.

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Latest update from the National Shooting Council;

Why our gun shops are closed - and what is being done about it

26 April 2020|gun shops, Legal actions, NSC work program

AS YOU KNOW, the governments of WA, Qld and Vic have all stopped gun shops from being able to sell guns and ammo to recreational shooters. For many this equates to closures.

Those governments are saying their decisions were made to help the spread of the COVID 19 virus but have not said why stopping them from being able to trade achieves this.

Instead they have said the decisions were made by the federal government at National Cabinet.

However, the NSC revealed in a blog earlier this month that National Cabinet made no such decision, and that the three states simply chose to concoct the story to justify what we say was a political decision that targets our dealers and all shooters.

We also revealed that Victoria Police did not even seek legal advice from the Victorian Government’s own lawyers before they ordered the shutdown.

The fact is gun shops are no different to other shops and should have only been required to implement the social distancing measures.

The NSC is the only organisation that has launched legal actions to fight the closure of gun shops in WA, Queensland and Vic. Shooters need to send the message to our governments that they can’t expect to get away with it without a fight.

The NSC gets it right

The NSC always works hard to ensure the truth comes out.

That’s why The Age , Sydney Morning Herald , Brisbane Times and WA Today all followed up on our claims and confirmed that what we said was correct.

In the words of one Canberra source quoted by one of the journos, the story used to justify the bans as decision by National Cabinet was “horseshit”.

If we don’t have gun shops, then we can’t buy guns, ammo, scopes or slings from where we normally go - and some of them risk going to wall.

The shooting industry needs to do WHATEVER WE CAN to help them - because losing them affects our ability to go shooting.

Industry infighting

If there ever was a need for unity this is it.

When the bans were announced, the NSC talked with other shooting organisations about taking legal action. Other states were seeking advice so we openly backed their efforts and contributed to them financially.

However it became apparent that legal actions in those states were not forthcoming, so we jumped in and started the actions which are now underway in Queensland and WA and Victoria.

Since we started our legal actions we note that one organisation based in Qld has started an action involving its AG which is great to see and understand more may be on its way - which we’re very happy to hear.

For what we have done we have copped our fair share of criticism. Other shooting organisations who have much deeper pockets have posted that they have legal advice that our actions won’t succeed. That’s fine - but no-one has seen that advice and it would be great if they shared it.

That said, other organisations have been supportive of what we are doing because they can see the need for us to fight to keep our gun shops open. They are the ones we want to partner with going forward.

A few days ago we posted about how the shooting industry needs to change the way it fight its political fights, if it wants to survive. Who does it is not important.

What is important is that someone makes it happen it because it won’t happen by itself. That’s why we’re partnering up with shooting organisations who share our goal of doing what we can to save our dealers.

Where we are at

  • Victoria: Our action in the Firearms Appeals Committee has resulted in a ‘ directions hearing’ on May 11 . We’re very comfortable with our case and were able to get the FAC to “fast track” the hearing when our detractors said we couldn’t do it. The action we’re taking is aimed at overturning the Chief Commissioner’s decision to vary the conditions of dealers’ licences, because he had no power to make the decision that he did based on health grounds.
  • WA: We have filed both the appeal and an application for an interim order in the State Administrative Tribunal – and believe we are on solid ground there. The WA action is aimed at requiring WA Police to reconsider their rejections of firearm licences and permits due to COVID-19. Again, we’re arguing that the decisions were not legal because they were not related to the WA Firearms Act which was used for these decisions.
  • Qld: We have filed the appeal and have instructed our lawyer to file for an interim order. This action challenges in QCAT the right of the Chief Health Officer to control what gun dealers do for reasons that do not appear to be related to COVID-19.
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