The age of genuine consultation is over: Vital review into firearms fails and creates distrust

After almost 18 months of countless meetings, detailed submissions, information-sharing, phone calls and letters, the outcomes from the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) review has left law-abiding shooters disenfranchised, concerned and offended.

Presented as an opportunity to cut red tape, along with stemming the illicit firearms market following the 2014 Sydney Siege, the recently updated NFA has ignored all the evidence submitted by the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA), firearms industry and other experts. In short, the whole process has been a farce.

On Friday – a day governments regularly use to ‘take out the trash’ and release bad news – the Attorney-General’s Department quietly released a 14-page document that will affect one million citizens. This followed a meeting of the Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (LCCSC) chaired by Attorney-General Senator George Brandis and Justice Minister Michael Keenan.

Of particular concern is the suggestion that handgun clubs will have to act as police investigators by sourcing and providing information to law enforcement regarding all handgun club members. This also includes details of any firearms each member might own. Currently, handgun clubs must simply provide the names of its members and notify police if a person does not renew their membership. This requirement will be burdensome for hundreds of volunteers at the SSAA’s 400-plus gun clubs and in fact creates more red tape – the opposite of what the review intended. It is devoid of any evidence that it will reduce crime.

The SSAA can only surmise that the government was never authentic in its intention to revise a 20-year-old agreement; an agreement that that has done little to address gun crime and has severely damaged the sport of shooting. Originally embraced by the shooting fraternity to address serious infringements on our pursuit of a legitimate recreation, the review has missed an opportunity to genuinely address the NFA.

We have expressed our disgust to the Attorney-General’s office and although cynical about the Federal Government’s desire to improve firearms regulation, we will meet with them shortly in Canberra. In the current climate of voter distrust towards the condescending major parties, the next Federal Election will be a telling reflection of the national mood, especially for Australia’s most upstanding, law-abiding citizens who proudly participate in sports shooting and hunting.

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