MULTIPLE RECLASSIFICATIONS: WAPol unloads on shooters again
12 June 2020|appearance laws, Western Australia Police
WA POLICE have started another gun grab out west, reclassifying seven firearms under the state’s ‘appearance’ laws.
In doing so, the force has ignored a Law Reform Commission recommendation to develop and publish a policy that explains how it will administer the law, which in our view is leaving it wide open to more legal action - from us.
In a recent letter to all firearm dealers, WA Police announced the result of a recent ‘review’ into permitted firearms. The result of that view that the regulator has ‘banned’ the following guns:
- The Ruger PC Charger handgun
- C-More Competition M26
- Precision Rifle Products Bullpup
- Precision DSR-1
- Desert Tactical Arms SRS A1
- Ruger SR22
- Franklin Armoury F17
WA Police – and other police forces around Australia – have the power to move guns from category A, B or H (handgun) to category C or D – on the basis of their appearance, function or design, effectively banning them for use by licensed shooters. These are known as ’ appearance laws '.
They are a loophole in the NFA which they are now exploiting despite having no clear guidance or even staff who have the qualifications and experience necessary to make those judgments.
In the case of the Ruger PC Charger handgun , WAPol originally proposed to prohibit it on the basis of section 11(1) of the WA Firearms Act 1973, which, among other things, simply required an opinion that licensing (or registering) the handgun “is not desirable in the interests of public safety” . This is despite the fact that it complies with the other requirements for handguns in the NFA, such as barrel length and magazine capacity.
Now it is banned - and it is interesting to see that WAPol have since removed the reference to s11(1). Another thing that grabbed our attention in its earlier advice is that WAPol also proposed to ban an air rifle - but seems to have dropped that idea.
The review conducted by WAPol was originally sparked by an amnesty which resulted in a number of already prohibited guns being handed in. It is therefore the case that ‘doing the right thing’ has resulted in what is essentially a punitive measure being taken against shooters.
Refusing to be transparent
Regulators need to have guidelines and other requirements to control their administration of the laws that affect us. In the case of firearms, the result is a mess. What may be legal in one State can be banned in another. In order to provide some sort of framework, the Law Reform Commission of WA Government released its review of the WA Firearms Act in 2016 which recommended:
“WA Police should formally adopt and publically release a policy setting out the way in which determinations will be made as to whether a firearm ordinarily in one category substantially duplicates a firearm in category D, H or prohibited in design or function.”
This has not been done. Instead, the government continues to allow an unclear law to be administer by unqualified people without any rules to guide them, openly encouraged by our NFA.
Why else would anyone propose to ban an air rifle? Yes, we can feel the hate from here. The law needs to change.
Are you affected by this?
Letters from WAPol advising dealers and others of the new restrictions have only just gone out so we are waiting to hear back from others in WA (including dealers) if and how they intend to fight this.
While the NSC has not made any decision on a challenge, it is something we are looking at. I f you are the owner of ANY of these firearms (or a dealer affected by the decision) , please let us know by email at [email protected].
This is important because we can only take action on behalf of those who may be affected by the decision.
2021 WA State Election
Our ‘Plan B’ is next year’s WA State Election. WA shooters have a number of well publicised problems that need resolution. Among them are:
- its fight against a 1km+ range at the Ella Valla Station;
- the recent gun shop closures on the basis of the fake ‘National Cabinet’ COVID-19 decision;
- the refusal to issue additional ‘gun licences’ for the same reason; and
- the weird position that WA being the only state that does not recognise interstate shooters licences.
With that scorecard, there is a strong case to argue for taking the policy role away from WA Police, because the current arrangements have proven that they do not produce any positive results. This will be a priority for us as we head into next year’s WA election.
One bit of good news though, is that the WA registry is looking at electronic licences to replace the current system of paper licences. While it is a positive to see new technology being considered, there is no budget or verifiable program to put this in place - which means that there is no plan to move away from paper licences at this time.
We have already responded to WAPol on the proposal along these lines and also noted that there will be a reluctance of many shooters to move away from physical licences. Unfortunately without a program in place, we doubt WA will move away from paper licences for quite some time.
Whichever way you look at it, the NSC is gearing up for a major fight in WA to see what we can do for shooters there. We need a strong NSC to beat our appearance laws and bring the fight to every election - and we need it now!
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