Proposed new gun laws came under fire from shooters both locally and across the state after they were introduced to the public on Monday.
If the laws pass through parliament as they are, Western Australia will become the first jurisdiction in the country to impose a limit on the number of firearms that can be owned.
Farmers and sporting shooters will be able to license up to 10 firearms, while recreational shooters will be permitted to own a maximum of no more than five.
A new digital licence scheme will also be introduced with an online portal and upgraded IT system which the government said would give police real-time access to licence holder details.
Premier Roger Cook said this was the “largest overhaul of firearm laws in the state’s history”, with WA being “the last jurisdiction to rewrite its firearm legislation since the Port Arthur massacre”.
The premier justified the proposed removal of an expected 10,000 guns from the community by saying there had been “a number of high-profile gun incidents during recent years”.
According to the government, over the past five years, on average one firearm has been stolen in WA every day.
Police Minister Paul Papalia said there are more than 360,000 firearms in the state – up 65 percent since 2009.
“New firearm limits will only impact around five per cent of individual licence holders,” he said.
“Extensive consultation has been carried out during the drafting process. Police have held more than 100 meetings with individuals, relevant stakeholders, and interested parties.”
But some peak bodies have been quick to point out that calling it a ‘consultation’ was “disingenuous”.
“Our WA supporters have told us they were not consulted with, but rather dictated to about what the new laws would involve – and absolutely none of them support any sort of cap on how many guns a licensed shooter should be able to own.” Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park said.
Sporting Shooters Association of WA president and Western Australian Firearms Community Alliance spokesperson Paul Fitzgerald said they hadn’t received an explanation from the police minister about “how these arbitrary limits have been arrived at”.
He said the caps were not the sorts of things that they were consulted about.
“We are seriously concerned at this late stage in the year, that dropping this type of proposal to the WA community is completely unwarranted, and we need to have a lot more consultation,” he said.
Neil Jenkins from the pro-shooting group, Politics Reloaded, said members of local gun clubs wanted to put their opinions on the proposed changes to member for Darling Range Hugh Jones, but that their letters and emails were instead passed to the police minister’s office.
Mr Jenkins said there were more than 2000 club members in the electorate, and up to four times as many firearm owners who don’t belong to clubs, which is a significant voting block.
In response Mr Jones has said he “consistently engages directly with constituents to assist them on a wide array of matters including the proposed firearms reforms”.
“If I’m unable to assist directly, I forwarded their concerns to the minister’s office, which is the most appropriate and effective avenue for the consideration of such feedback during the formulation of the Firearms Act Reforms.
“I continue to have productive and direct engagement with local constituents on these matters.
“I encourage Darling Range residents to have their say by making a submission regarding the proposed laws by emailing FirearmsActReform@police.wa.gov.au before November 14.”
But the Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park said it was clear the Cook government “was going to do whatever it liked”.
“We don’t believe for a moment that the WA Government will seriously take on feedback from us, or other firearms users, regarding their new laws and any minor tweaks they do make will be on largely inconsequential stuff that will act as a fig leaf so they can pretend they did some consultation with people before they ram the laws home anyway,” he said.
Politics Reloaded’s Neil Jenkins said while a majority of shooters are unlikely to be affected by the reforms, that they are a “bulldozer approach” that “will do nothing for public safety” and are a “middle finger to every shooter which says they are somehow not worthy of being consulted”.
“The position has been driven by an ideology, rather than facts, and makes no effort to address crime.”
“Hard limits simply don’t make sense. The approach taken by the government reflects ….contempt for the shooting community which has never argued against sensible laws. In fact, shooters have always supported laws that keep firearms out of the hands of criminals which has been lost in the conversation.”
WAFarmers CEO Trevor Whittington said he’d consulted with members and, while he didn’t understand the cap on firearms, “at the end of the day we can live with 10”.