ROBERT BORSAK MLC and ROBERT BROWN MLC
22 March 2012
The Government wishes to reduce incidence of drive-by shootings in Sydney – a sentiment supported by all. However the Government mistakenly believes that stricter controls on the sale of ammunition by licensed firearms dealers will somehow reduce criminals' access to ammunition.
If the Government is serious about reducing drive-by shootings and other crimes committed using firearms, it will put more resources into police investigation of illegal importation and black market trade in firearms. The breakthrough announced in the media last week, where Police arrested three men in connection with the illegal importation of up to 220 pistols from overseas demonstrates this is a more effective way of tackling gun crime:
"Police say a post office was being used by a syndicate which brought up to 220 illegal guns into the country, including some linked to recent Sydney shootings. Detectives are now scrambling to track down scores of guns they believe were sold by the ring.
The syndicate was cracked after officers investigating shootings in the city traced several illegal handguns to the same batch manufactured by Glock in Austria last year. The batch included a gun used in a shooting in January at Wiley Park.
Working alongside customs officials, they discovered the pistols were being sold to a German gun dealer then imported into Australia by criminals. Sydney police raided a dozen properties yesterday morning, including one at Sylvania Waters Post Office.
Officers say they found a parcel containing 140 Glock magazines, seven guns, ammunition and
Unfortunately nearly all of these pistols are not yet accounted for. Considerably more Police work is required to track the others down. It should also be noted that the parcel found by the Police at Sylvania Waters Post Office contained both firearms and ammunition. This welcome breakthrough by Police clearly demonstrates that licensed shooters and hunters are not the problem. Drive-by shootings are not committed by law abiding, licensed firearms users and the firearms used in crime are not registered.
Many of the firearms used in firearm related crime have never been legitimately owned and were illegally imported. If criminals can easily source illegal firearms, acquiring ammunition from illegal sources would be even more trivial. The proposed Bill, if enacted, will adversely affect lawful shooters, yet, at best, only have a negligible impact on criminal activities.
Supply of ammunition to criminal elements:
Current legislation already provides that ammunition can only be sold to persons authorised to possess a firearm that takes the ammunition. This is already sufficient to ensure that law abiding citizens do not supply ammunition to unauthorised persons - a person with a category A licence (shotgun and rimfire rifle) already cannot purchase centrefire
ammunition or pistol ammunition.
Amending the Firearms Act to allow firearms dealers to sell ammunition only to those already owning a firearm that uses that ammunition, or that have a permit to acquire a firearm of that calibre will not prevent those willing to break the law from accessing ammunition.
Just as the control of the sale of Cold and Flu tablets containing pseudoephedrine has not prevented criminals accessing (in bulk) the precursor chemicals needed to manufacture methamphetamine (speed).
Ammunition will continue to be smuggled into the country for criminal use, or supplied by
'cleanskins' with criminal affiliations who are willing to break the law by supplying unauthorised persons.
The current form of firearms licence does not provide information on what calibres of firearm a person owns so firearms owners would be forced to carry their registration papers to the gun shop rather than keeping them safely locked at home.
The use of ammunition by criminals in drive-by shootings is small – only a few rounds fired per incident – so the volume of ammunition supplied to criminals by way of smuggling or diversion of legal purchases would only be miniscule compared to the thousands of rounds used each year by serious target shooters.
The proposed requirement for firearms dealers to record the details of persons purchasing ammunition will have no value in solving drive-by shootings, or tracing the purchase trail for the ammunition used in drive by shootings. - commercial small arms ammunition is manufactured in batches, but any given factory may produce hundreds of thousands of identically marked cartridges in a year – even if forensic investigation were to identify the batch of ammunition used in a drive by shooting, it is unlikely to be able to be tracked
back to a particular dealer as ammunition is imported in bulk by licensed wholesalers and then on-sold to many licensed dealers.
The type of crimes that the proposed amendments supposedly target, are almost exclusively being perpetrated in the metropolitan area. Yet this proposed legislation will significantly and adversely affect legitimate and lawful shooters in country areas, hardly a fair and reasonable outcome.
The Government would do better to support the Shooters and Fishers' Crimes Amendment (Possession or Discharge of Firearms in Commission of Offences) Bill 2012 , which introduces a mandatory charge of using a firearm in the commission of an offence when a person is caught with a firearm during the commission of certain crimes.
Firearms Dealers will be required to spend even more time completing forms, gathering information that is of no use.
Licensed persons wishing to purchase ammunition will need to carry the registration papers for their firearms with them to the gunshop, creating an increased risk of losing those papers and having them fall into the wrong hands.
The proposed amendment only applies to the sale of ammunition through licensed firearms dealers – persons who are authorised under their firearms licence to possess ammunition will still be able to sell it to other authorised persons without the need to sight a registration paper for a firearm in the calibre concerned - this will lead to an increase in the number of sales of ammunition outside of firearms dealerships.
This is a form of firearms dealer that is licensed to provide a service to club members. Club armourers often purchase ammunition in bulk for sale to club members. This amendment will significantly increase the amount of paperwork involved in their sale of ammunition - the requirement for a club armourer to specify which club firearm ammunition is to be used in is
unreasonable as some clubs have up to 20 club firearms and it may not be known which firearm will be used at the time the ammunition is purchased - only a club armourer will be able to sell the ammunition to members, whereas now a range officer often does this.
Hunters make a choice as to what calibre firearm they will use each time they go hunting, based on the size and structure of the animal they intend to hunt, in order to ensure that the animal is humanely killed
- the recommended calibre for hunting pigs differs from that for deer and differs again for rabbits - many hunters borrow a friend's or property owner's rifle if they get an opportunity to hunt an animal for which they don't own a firearm in the recommended calibre
- friends are willing to loan firearms, but ammunition is expensive and when you borrow a rifle you can expect to have to buy ammunition to use in it
- if this amendment goes through, a hunter who has borrowed a rifle will not be able to buy
ammunition to use in it from the local gun shop, and the owner will not be likely to afford to give the ammunition away.
This will lead to :
- increased sales of ammunition outside of firearms dealerships, as the owner of the rifle sells
ammunition to the person to whom they are lending their rifle
- increased purchases of rifles as hunters seek to minimise the need to borrow rifles and instead prefer to own rifles in a greater number of calibres
- increased likelihood of hunters using an inappropriate calibre and causing a longer more painful death of the animal being hunted
- increased transport of firearms by hunters who are forced to use their own firearm rather than borrow one in another calibre from the land owner.
A licensed target shooter doesn't always choose to own their own firearm – some prefer to use a club gun because they either don't want to store a firearm at home, can't afford one, or don't see the necessity to own one.
- however these target shooters still have a legal obligation to shoot at the range at least 4 times a year in order to keep their licence and in order to meet that obligation they need to purchase ammunition.
- not all clubs sell ammunition at the range, so the shooter needs to purchase ammunition prior to going to the club – this proposed Bill would prevent him doing that
- this Bill will result in more shooters having to purchase their own firearm.
A pistol shooter initially is issued with a probationary licence and during the first few months cannot purchase their own pistol – they are still required to make a minimum number of attendances at their pistol club using either club pistols, or pistols supplied by other club members.
- while the amendment provides for club armourers to supply ammunition to club members for use in club guns, it does not provide for them to provide ammunition for use in firearms borrowed from other club members.
The effect of the proposed amendments will be akin to one borrowing a diesel fuelled motor vehicle and being prohibited from purchasing diesel fuel because one isn’t the registered owner of a diesel motor vehicle.
Legal Firearms Users in Rural Areas
The number of licensed firearms dealers has diminished over the years, and a legal firearms user often has to travel a considerable distance to visit their local gun shop. This is particularly true in rural areas. It is common practice that when a licensed shooter visits a gun shop, he or she may well purchase ammunition for similarly licensed neighbours or friends, to save them making the same trip. Under this legislation husbands and wives, who often do not own the same calibre firearms, will no longer be able to purchase ammunition
for each other. Hunters travelling to hunt on remote properties will no longer be able to purchase ammunition to resupply the property owner, as is commonly done now.
Robert Borsak MLC
Shooters and Fishers Party Parliament House Sydney 2000