Weathering the anti-gun storm as opportunists unashamedly capitalise on tragedy

The legitimate firearms community copped another round of unfair criticism following the Las Vegas tragedy, with local anti-gun groups unashamedly opting for crass political opportunism. Gun Control Australia (GCA) and the Australian Greens Party seized on the chance to sensationalise the reality of Australia’s gun laws, showing that such groups are devoid of any moral fibre.

Releasing a report authored by the notorious Philip Alpers, GCA and the Greens attempted to shame the independent state and territory governments for adapting gun laws to suit their own unique jurisdictions, instead of strictly adhering to the National Firearms Agreement (NFA). Alpers’ report, which has not been peer-reviewed, merely highlighted the fact that the NFA is a non-binding guide – a point that Justice Minister Michael Keenan himself made crystal clear during our recent NFA review discussions. The SSAA was quick to condemn the groups for using a tragedy to drive an obvious agenda.

It was refreshing to see a non-emotive article on the real state of Australia’s gun laws then published on the widely read academic website The Conversation. Written by criminologists, the article explained how state and territory governments are ultimately responsible for gun laws. The authors also cautioned against extreme views that inhibit constructive debates.

Unfortunately, the leading doctors group also relied on emotive rhetoric rather than facts. We blasted the Australian Medical Association in the press for their calls to force city-dwelling licensed owners to store firearms at gun clubs, labelling it impractical and out of touch.

On a positive note, I was pleased to show off the conservation and wildlife preservation activities of our Association to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) last month. The WWF was impressed by our efforts to host a large koala sanctuary at SSAA Queensland’s Stewartdale property, with koalas in south-east Queensland under threat due to land clearing. It is great to see a reputable environmental organisation recognise our work in this space.

As I explained to the WWF, we are involved in many conservation activities, including hunting and culling on behalf of state governments and farmers. Our involvement in these activities brings with it major community benefits, at no cost to taxpayers but with little recognition.

Australian Hunter, the sister magazine of the SSAA’s flagship publication Australian Shooter, helps the SSAA to educate both hunters and non-hunters alike about conservation and wildlife management. The magazine now has its own face – literally – on Facebook.

Another great website to take a look at is SSAA Gun Sales, where you can buy, sell and browse a variety of firearms-related products. While the website might be functionally different to what you are used to, the site has recently been refreshed with added improvements and offers a great range of firearms and related items for sale.

On a final note, the national firearms amnesty ended on September 30, with more than 50,000 items recorded throughout the three-month period. Our proposed model of including gun dealers as hand-in locations and giving licensees the option to register legal firearms, instead of sending them to the scrapheap, was adopted by most jurisdictions.

It appears that the states which opted for restrictive amnesty models and excluded gun dealers from the process had less successful results. Initial inquiries suggest a significant majority of firearms have been registered to licensed owners. We have requested a full breakdown of the data.

It was interesting to hear the Australian Labor Party express an enlightened view, calling for an ongoing amnesty. There is certainly scope for expanding the current concept; after all, ensuring firearms are in the right hands is where public safety benefits can be made.

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