Originally published in the Weekly Times
Hundreds of Victorian shooters may lose their firearms licences due to a 19-year-old administrative error.
Victoria Police are reviewing category C licences issued to owners of semi-automatic weapons or pump-action shotguns during the Federal Government's 1996 gun amnesty.
Despite having their licence renewals approved several times in the past two decades, many shooters have received letters asking for more proof before their licences are approved again.
Police say they are not able to yet accurately identify the actual error, but a mistake has been made and licences have been wrongly issued.
Hunting groups have been told 300-400 shooters are involved in the review, although police say the exact number is not yet known and “could be much less”.
Field and Game Australia chief executive Rod Drew has asked police to be “sympathetic” to the plight of the licence holders.
“Many of these would have had a licence their whole life,” he said.
The Shooters and Fishers Party has asked the Government to “tread softly” on the issue.
“The police cannot ignore this now it has been discovered, but we need to make sure bureaucracy does not overrule common sense,” party MP Jeff Bourman said.
A police spokeswoman said the error was discovered as part of a routine assessment of category C licences, which relate to semi-automatic or pump action shotguns.
The issue, which still has not been resolved, surrounds a law made on November 15, 1996 as part of the Howard Government gun buyback following the Port Arthur massacre.
The police spokeswoman said some licence holders were incorrectly issued with a licence for a firearm they may not have been eligible to possess.
“No decision has been made to cancel any licences at this stage.” Affected shooters are being asked to provide more information to support their latest renewal application.
They may be asked to produce evidence of semiautomatic gun ownership from 1996 and memberships of approved shooting groups from that time as well.