Queensland Police Minister labels farmers with handguns ‘lone cowboys’

The Queensland Police Minister Bill Byrne caused quite a stir recently when he labelled farmers wanting the use of handguns as “lone cowboys”. Member for Mt Isa, Rob Katter, had questioned the Minister over why his farming constituents were encountering consistent rejections when applying for a licence or renewal for Category H firearms (handguns).

Apparently, the Minister does not see a handgun as a legitimate agricultural tool in the same way that farmers, and probably most licensed shooters, do. His direct quotes relating to this issue were reported in the Queensland Country Life newspaper. “The idea for the lone cowboy, with the pistol strapped to the hip as an effective weapon in an agricultural application, simply doesn’t cut it with me,” he said. “The core argument that a concealable pistol, Glock or any equivalent type of weapon, is going to be a preferable agricultural weapon, for application in the agricultural sector is not a viable argument to make.”

Firstly, Minister Byrne’s continued use of the term ‘weapon’ instead of using the term ‘tool’ makes it clear that his personal view doesn’t weigh up any of the benefits for farmers. We are not talking about a ‘wild west’ situation here; we are talking about a genuine tool that our farmers should have access to. Sure, it may not be the preferable tool all the time, but there will be instances where they suit the job better than a longarm. It’s a similar reason as to why I have both a shovel and a spade in my shed at home – one would be preferable over the other depending on the job at hand, but neither by themselves would be preferable to use for all jobs.

The use of handguns to put down stock or feral animals is more than acceptable. Where a farmer is driving a quad bike or motorbike to quickly move around on an isolated property, you can certainly put a case forward for using a handgun under safety and convenience reasons alone. Having a handgun securely attached to the person, rather than slung over the shoulder or strapped to or dangling from the vehicle’s handlebars, would no doubt be a safer option. There is a real chance for a longarm to be caught on vegetation while travelling and this could result in a serious accident in the middle of nowhere.

Another instance where handguns can be useful is when farmers are working closely with large stock where dangerous situations could occur without warning, if the farmer is alone. To highlight the dangers of working alone with stock, ABC Tropical North recently reported an incident where a 66-year-old farmer was gored by a wild bull. He only escaped death because he had an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) unit, which he was able to activate after crawling to his vehicle. The wild bull had charged and attacked him, leaving him with 11 broken ribs, a collapsed lung, a punctured leg and a broken shoulder. The attack only ended after the farmer played dead and the bull lost interest.

Hopefully, there will be some extra consideration applied to this issue where the practical use of handguns is the focus, instead of a comical portrayal of farmers walking around like cowboys with ‘six-shooters’ on their belts. Perhaps the Queensland Police Minister can look at how pastoralists in Western Australia have been granted access to Category H licences for the aforementioned reasons. A personal view is fine to have, but when you are a minister in charge of making decisions, you must weigh up the genuine needs of those most impacted. Farmers, who require tools to assist their work and to protect their life in emergency situations, deserve more consideration than simply being called lone cowboys.

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