The manager of a Maddington firearms shop has described a wide-scale rewrite of firearm legislation as a game of “smoke and mirrors”.
Announced on Tuesday by Premier Mark McGowan and Police Minister Paul Papalia, a complete re-write of the five-decade-old Firearms Act will look modernise the current firearms licensing regime with procedural and operational improvements that have a strong focus on community safety.
While there have been several amendments to the Act over the years, there has been no structural reform since the Act was enacted back in 1973.
New police figures reveal Western Australians now own more than 349,000 guns – a 60 per cent jump in the number of licensed guns compared to 13 years ago.
At the same time, the number of Western Australians who hold a gun licence has fallen.
Maddington’s Beaton Firearms opened in 2000 and manager Zaine Beaton believes the review isn’t something that is required.
“Just recently, at the behest of WA Police, the Police Minister has made changes to the existing legislation to mitigate organised crime gangs getting hold of firearms and that sort of stuff.
“So, the ink’s not even dry on the last set of changes they’ve made and now they’re talking about overhauling the whole thing.
“That’s proof in itself that the overhaul is unnecessary.
“They can change legislation and they’ve continually changed legislation since 1973 when this legislation was originally written.
“It’s just all smoke and mirrors.”
Mr Beaton pinpointed the most significant change in the Firearms Act as the National Firearms Agreement in 1997, in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.
“They could do it then, they don’t really need to overhaul the entire legislation.
“The legislation works quite well and indicative of that is the extremely low firearm-related crime rate that we have in WA.”
Mr McGowan and Mr Papalia said there would be extensive stakeholder and community consultation undertaken as part of the review, but Mr Beaton believes that is nothing more than a token gesture.
“I’ve been invited to a shareholder’s consultation meeting which will be held next month, but by reading between the lines they’re going to dictate to us what the changes are going to be.
“It doesn’t matter if we appeal to that or not.
“I doubt they’re going to take any of our contributions – like myself, I’m relatively young but I’ve been in the industry 19 years – so I’ll have a lot to contribute in terms of knowing where the legislation needs to be pushed, but I double they’ll take any of my concerns or input to heart, they haven’t in the past.”