SSAA a target as anti-gun lobby calls for funding

Rachael Oxborrow

Licensed and law-abiding firearm owners remain the anti-gun lobby’s scapegoat when drumming up media support for their cause, but insinuations the National Firearms Agreement inadvertently funds our Association are now part of their message. Australians remembered the victims of the 1996 Port Arthur mass shooting 25 years ago back in April and the anti-gun catch-cry revealed their true agenda – a funding stream for their endeavours.

The SSAA participated in several interviews where we were given right of reply to claims the legislation changes following Port Arthur, while introducing ‘positive protections’ had increased memberships in target shooting clubs, created monetary incentives for clubs to be opened and consequently the number of clubs in Australia increased.

It was also claimed these flow-on effects of the NFA, namely making membership of a target shooting club a genuine reason for licensing and ownership, had made the SSAA larger and more effective in attempts to lobby firearm laws. The explanation for these claims came during a University of Sydney webinar event entitled Public Health at the Forefront of Social Change: 25 Years of Gun Control since Port Arthur when Gun Control Australia’s Rebecca Peters called for public funding for her work in the interests of ‘public safety’.

“Somehow the spirit of a bipartisan approach to get the best outcome for firearm regulation hasn’t carried on (since the NFA) and so the imbalance between the resources available to the people who want to reduce the strength of the laws is disproportionate,” Ms Peters said.

“There’s no-one clearly identified in government working on understanding and making recommendations (to legislators) whose primary commitment is to public safety. At least the amount of money going to the gun lobby could be balanced out if similar funds were being provided to people working to maintain the laws.”

Also participating in the University of Sydney event was fellow anti-gun commentator Philip Alpers who effectively called on the government to abolish the need for target shooting club membership as a genuine reason for firearm ownership. He suggested the genuine reason for ownership had created a controlled market situation similar to compulsory university student union membership in Australia before it was made voluntary in 2005.

Let’s take a step back from what is clearly a cry for taxpayer funding by self-appointed anti-gun lobbyists, as it’s universally known that owning a target shooting club isn’t the get-rich-quick scheme it’s being made out to be. We also need to acknowledge there are many other approved genuine reasons for firearm ownership including primary production, hunting, occupation and recreational hunting.

In a response provided to a journalist from The Guardian newspaper, we detailed thus: “Following the National Firearms Agreement in 1996, some Australian States and Territories changed their laws to include membership of a target shooting club as a genuine reason to own a firearm and have a firearm licence. The Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA) is one of several shooting sports associations that qualifies firearm owners for a genuine reason of ownership under this category.

“SSAA membership has increased from around 30,000 members in 1996 to more than 200,000 in 2021. According to latest figures, there are around one million licensed firearm owners in Australia. It is reasonable to assume SSAA membership numbers have increased due to the genuine reason of ownership status tied to target shooting club membership in some States and Territories. The SSAA national body is self-funded with membership fees and income from a wide range of publications and initiatives contributing to the Association’s finances.

“The SSAA manages more than 18 shooting competitions – commonly referred to as ‘disciplines’ – at local, state, national and international level. We cater to many different types of firearms including shotguns, pistols, revolvers and rifles in rimfire, centrefire, air and black powder configurations. There are more than 400 SSAA clubs and affiliated branches across Australia.

“The SSAA has a lobbying and advocacy function brought about by our endeavours to promote the shooting sports and protect firearm owners’ interests. We do not ask for the ‘weakening’ of firearm laws in Australia as is suggested by anti-firearm ownership groups. We seek out effective and non-intrusive firearm laws which don’t have unforeseen consequences for law-abiding firearm owners. The SSAA is often sought out to provide advisory counselling on regulations and policy to various levels of government and has now done so for around 20 years.

“Gun Control Australia and the Australia Institute, with support of the Australian Greens Party which has a long-held ideological hatred of firearms, uses fear to sensationalise the reality of Australia’s firearm laws. The SSAA will always support measures which genuinely contribute to public safety. Regulation efforts should always focus on the illegal market rather than law-abiding firearm owners who are some of Australia’s most highly regulated citizens.”

If the anti-gun lobby were to receive public money to fund its lobbying, this would seriously undermine democracy at work and drown out public debate which includes the opinions of all Australians. The SSAA’s target shooting clubs are no more funded by Australia’s firearm legislation and the NFA than is Gun Control Australia.

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