Greens in Parliament: Stop Dismantling Gun Control Laws

Today we called out this government for their dangerous pandering to the gun lobby and stood up for stronger gun control laws. 


Ms JENNY LEONG ( Newtown ) ( 18:26 :41 ): I speak on behalf of The Greens in debate on the Firearms and Weapons Legislation Amendment Bill 2017. The Greens oppose the bill and have genuinely serious concerns about aspects of it. In 1996, 35 people were killed and 18 people were injured by one man with a semiautomatic rifle. The tragedy at Port Arthur resulted in bipartisan support for changes that have since reduced gun-related deaths. Former Federal Greens leader Christine Milne, then the representative of The Greens in Tasmania, was involved in the negotiations involving John Howard and oversaw changes to our gun laws that significantly reduced gun-related deaths in this country. Unfortunately, the gun lobby in this State is strong and powerful, and since that time regulations and restrictions on firearms in New South Wales and Australia have been wound back.

The package pushed here by the Liberal-Nationals Government will substantially water down firearms laws in New South Wales. It shows the weakness of this Coalition Government, which is prepared to put at risk the safety of members of the public by weakening gun laws and kowtowing to the gun lobby in this State. The bill represents an alarming weakening of our gun laws and the removal of the changes that occurred after the Port Arthur massacre. The Greens support stricter, not weaker, gun laws and we commend the work of Gun Control Australia in advocating for safer gun laws. There has been no public consultation regarding the substantial amendments in this bill. That is deplorable, given the circumstances and instances of gun crime around this country and the fact that there are now more than 850,000 registered firearms in New South Wales.

The big question that has to be asked—which my colleague in the other place David Shoebridge asked when he raised and outlined The Greens' detailed concerns about the bill—is: Why does anybody in New South Wales need to have a gun that can fire off 10 shots in 10 seconds or eight shots in eight seconds? Why? What are we doing in this place weakening the legislation and the regulations around firearms when we know the reality of what that will look like on our streets and in our communities? I will point to a number of regressive and potentially dangerous amendments in the bill.

The first is that the bill will triple the number of category D firearms. Category D is the most dangerous weapons category and such firearms can be owned by primary producers who require a firearm for pest control. These guns can have a magazine capacity greater than 10 rounds and are self-loading. They are the type of self‑loading firearms that were targeted specifically and limited in the 1996 National Firearms Agreement. There is no reason that primary producers need more than one category D firearm. They can apply for an additional category C firearm and, if need be, they can engage a contract shooter if additional help is required. The second reason we oppose the bill is that it will mean lever action shotguns with a magazine of no more than five rounds will now come under category B rather than category A. This is not good enough. A category B licence does not sufficiently regulate this type of high-powered, dangerous weapon; it requires only that applicants show "special need" to obtain this type of gun. However, the number of gun licences in this category is so large it suggests that the bar is not set very high.

An additional concern with lever action shotguns is that they have been modernised and redesigned. Their magazine capacity is able to be extended without specialist intervention. Lever action guns such as the Adler A110 and the Pardus have a removable tubular magazine that can be extended to supply eight, 10 or 12 shots. Two years ago the chief executive officer of the Australian Crime Commission, Chris Dawson, warned the Minister for Justice about the potential emergence of a new market for extension Adler A110s because of the tubular magazine capacity. The bill allows existing owners of guns with a capacity of 10 rounds or more to fall into a lesser classification and not come under the stringent category D requirements. People can even purchase three different types of extension kits for the guns online. All they have to do is agree that they will self-report these types of modifications to authorities.

Our third concern is that the bill waters down the ammunition controls that were brought in by the last Parliament and waters down the safe storage requirements for firearms. We know that stolen guns fall into the hands of criminals—apparently some 6,450 guns were stolen in the two years between 2014 and 2015. In New South Wales during this period 1,406 firearms were stolen, primarily from private homes. So it is obviously essential that guns are locked up properly and cannot be accessed with ease. This is increasingly important because of the high rate of suicides that evidence shows are the result of the unsafe storage of guns. In New South Wales the number of rural suicides reduced dramatically after the introduction of the 1996 National Firearms Agreement. It is shocking that Parliament is considering any lessening of the regulations around these sorts of basic safety precautions.

According to a story published just today in the Guardian, a new study based on an analysis of national injury records has found that there was a 60 per cent increase in gun suicides from 2007 to 2015. The statistics for youth suicides in the United States reveal that guns were involved in 38 per cent of all deaths of young people aged under 17 each year. Every day about 19 children die or are treated in an emergency department as a result of a gunshot wound in the United States, and gunshots are the greatest cause of death for children aged under 17. These types of statistics have always horrified Australians. We have consistently called for stronger gun law reforms because we do not want to see in Australia what is happening in the United States. At a time when people are feeling fearful and when we want the community to be united about our collective values, we do not want to see a weakening of our gun laws.

It is crucial that the Government does not pander to the gun lobby, but it is also important to look at who is supporting and voting for such legislation in this place. I note that in the other place the Labor Party supported an amendment moved by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to introduce a firearms ombudsman. A firearms ombudsman might sound fairly innocuous, but in fact the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party proposed that the firearms ombudsman could overrule the police commissioner, who has the power to refuse somebody a licence on the grounds of criminal intelligence, past records of criminal links or domestic violence reports. In the other place the Labor Party joined the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party to support this amendment, which went too far even for the Liberal-Nationals Government in weakening gun laws in this State.

In this place we expect that the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party will oppose the bill because it will not weaken gun laws enough and The Greens will oppose the bill because it will weaken gun laws too much. But it seems it is just right for the Liberal-Nationals Government and for the Labor Opposition, despite the fact that Gun Control Australia has provided a detailed brief as to its serious concerns. Although Labor members have quoted that brief from Gun Control Australia, the Labor Party is in lock step with the Liberals and The Nationals when it comes to weakening gun laws in this State. As my colleague in the other place David Shoebridge asked: Why does anybody in New South Wales need to have a gun that can fire off 10 shots in 10 seconds or eight shots in eight seconds? I ask the Liberal-Nationals Government and the Labor Party that question. Why does anyone in this State need a gun that does that?


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