Visitor snub in NT strong-arm tactics

Rachael Oxborrow

Licensed visitors to the Northern Territory will be unable to buy ammunition and will only be able to use their firearms under supervision of an NT licence holder unless they apply for and receive express permission. This remarkable regulation change has been made without consultation with the section of the community it impacts, and will restrict target shooting competition operations and the vast recreational hunting industry and tourism opportunities in the Top End.

The changes have come about following a review of the NT Firearms Act and corresponding regulations by the Firearms Policy and Recording Unit and the NT Police Legal Branch. At no point was the law-abiding firearms community consulted or notified this change was coming, despite multiple attempts by the sector to have a working relationship with NT Police Minister Brent Potter, who was appointed to the role in October of last year.

The NT Firearms Council (NTFC), of which SSAA (NT) is a member, is the peak representative body which advocates for the interests of firearms owners, users and businesses. Its executive sits on the Government’s Firearms Advisory Council (FAC), established under the Act to advise the Minister and Police Commissioner on regulatory issues affecting firearm owners and users.

Despite this formal role and long history of working with the Government, NTFC has been ignored during multiple requests to meet with the Police Minister. SSAA Darwin President, SSAA (NT) Vice-President and NTFC President Andy Armstrong said this ongoing block by the Minister had continued for the best part of six months until late March. Mr Armstrong said while the face-to-face meeting was less than productive, NTFC looked forward to working constructively with the Minister’s staff into the future.

“This raft of regulatory changes out of NT Police and the Government was announced without consultation and is insulting,” he said. “The amendments have become a burden on firearms users, businesses, sporting groups and interstate visiting shooters. These changes have been introduced without adequate consultation or input from either the Firearms Council or Firearms Advisory Council, which has clear statutory roles in making recommendations on firearm licensing and use under the Act.”

Mr Armstrong said the Police Minister’s ongoing disregard of licence holders and ignorance of the effects on the wider community in the NT was a disgrace. “The concerns of the NTFC are that Territory licence holders are being disadvantaged and treated with indifference compared to licence holders in other jurisdictions,” he said.

“The Government appears content to ignore the concerns of its peak advisory body which represents 17,000-plus licence holders across the Northern Territory. This number would extrapolate to around 20 to 25 per cent of Territory households owning a firearm. You’d think that six months out from an election, Government would be concerned their actions are likely to lead to significant loss of votes, but that doesn’t appear to be the case.”

This regulatory change and disregard for public consultation adds to a recurring theme of targeting firearm laws and law-abiding users with increasingly stringent controls without sound evidence and reasoning. In recent months, Tasmania Police conducted a review of regulations which has brought about the need for licensing and storage requirements of pre-1900 firearms for the first time. The ongoing fight in Western Australia, where the Government is refusing to distinguish between law-abiding firearm owners and illegal firearm as the true public safety concern, also continues.

In all situations, the tens of thousands of SSAA state and territory members are best placed to support the ongoing efforts of SSAA executive members by voicing concerns with their local elected members and media. SSAA (NT) through NTFC will continue to advocate and fight for recognition and respect for law-abiding firearm owners and provide updates to members when available.

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