A new line in the sand to protect Pacific firearm owners

A historical partnership between the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia and the New Zealand Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO) has been established, creating a new line in the sand in protecting the Pacific region’s firearm owners. The Memorandum of Understanding for this new partnership, named the Pacific Shooting Sports Forum, was signed earlier this year by SSAA National President Geoff Jones and COLFO’s chairman Paul Clark in New Zealand’s capital, Wellington.

Many of the pressures of the shooting sports and the attacks on recreational shooting and hunting have become internationalised and this forum will help establish a mutual exchange of research and factual information and provide an effective voice and advocate in Oceania. The SSAA and COLFO, as the dominant supporters of the shooting sports in their respective countries, recognise the benefits of close cooperation and support in the world environment and have agreed to work together for a common purpose, the promotion and support of the shooting sports.

COLFO is a conglomerate of various shooting organisations in New Zealand, including the National Rifle Association of New Zealand, Sporting Shooters Association of New Zealand, New Zealand Antique and Historical Arms Association, New Zealand Black Powder Shooters Federation, New Zealand Deerstalkers, Pistol NZ, New Zealand Service Rifle Association, and the International Military Arms Society.

The SSAA delegation accompanying Geoff Jones included SSAA National Senior Vice President and SSAA WA President Ron Bryant, National Secretary Kaye McIntyre, International Affairs Chairman Bob Green, and National CEO Tim Bannister. During the weekend forum, the SSAA and COLFO discussed the various legislative, media and social challenges facing both nations and laid the foundations for joint initiatives.

COLFO chairman Paul Clark thanked the SSAA delegation for reigniting communications between the countries. He noted that both associations are active on the international front and have non-government organisation (NGO) status with the United Nations, as well as membership on the World Forum of Shooting Activities (WFSA).

SSAA National President Geoff Jones discussed the importance of unity and pointed to some of the less restrictive management of firearms in New Zealand as being an area to be further explored in Australia.

“New Zealand sets a great example of how recreational shooting and hunting can be seen as an asset to the economy,” Geoff said. “It is also seen as a legitimate and safe activity to be encouraged and that has benefits to the environment and social well-being.

“With that said, all countries must be vigilant and cooperative diligence is the key to future firearms ownership protection.”

A management committee will be established between the SSAA and COLFO to further drive the forum, with presidency to rotate every two years. A round-table for the exchange of information, it complements the South Pacific Shooting Forum, where competitors for the region shoot in international competition.

Some aspects initially discussed were the difficulty of bringing some firearms into Australia from New Zealand for the purpose of competition and hunting; the need for legislators to back science evidence and not rely on emotive or ideological opinions for forming legislation; and the attempts by those against private firearms ownership to draw us into the current terrorist debate and the illegal use of firearms.

On a more positive note, COLFO delegates were invited to a planned international symposium on sustainable hunting to be held in Australia next year. It was also noted that both countries have had scientific research papers released on the economic and environmental benefits of hunting.

New Zealand media took an interest in the meeting, with NZ Guns & Hunting magazine editor Peter Maxwell and Rod & Rifle magazine editor Simon Gibson both attending an evening event and interviewing COLFO and SSAA delegates.

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