Gun laws under question

Anti-gun violence advocates say community safety may be jeopardised because Australian states and territories are not adhering to the National Firearms Agreement.

A recent report, by University of Sydney researchers, raised serious concerns about children and guns after finding no jurisdiction was fully compliant to an NFA provision which states all gun license applicants must be at least 18 years old.

The report, commissioned by Gun Control Australia, found Western Australia was one of the worst performing states, with no minimum age stipulation in its own legislation.

Gun Control Australia chairman Samantha Lee said Australian gun laws were being diluted by political pressure from gun groups.

“As each jurisdiction waters down our gun laws, the national approach to gun regulations begins to collapse,” Ms Lee said.

“The safety of the community will be placed in jeopardy if gun laws continue to be eroded.”

A spokesperson from anti-gun violence group Alannah & Madeline Foundation said childrens’ lives depended on firearm owners exercising the highest level of care.

“Safety must be the most important issue when considering firearm regulations,” the spokesperson said

“It is critical that there are significant consequences for any firearm owner who fails to properly meet safety, storage and security requirements for weapons.

“This is why we are puzzled and concerned about any changes to firearms and weapons legislation.”

Shooters Union of Western Australia president Paul Peake said shooting enthusiasts were often misunderstood and were not in favour of unvetted access to firearms.

“All we are interested in is fair and reasonable, and that’s where it comes down to a debate on what constitutes fair and reasonable,” Mr Peake said.

“We shouldn’t have a situation where any maniac can walk into a gun store and walk out with a firearm.

“I think the laws in WA, as they stand, are a reasonable compromise.”

The report comes after the conclusion of the national gun amnesty, which saw Western Australians surrender more than 1,200 firearms, 700 of those in the metropolitan area.

Ms Lee said research had shown gun amnesties with no legislative change produced no measurable decrease in violence.

“Amnesties are more effective if there is legislative change complementing the amnesty, such as banning of a certain class of firearm,” Ms Lee said.

“Amnesties look good but are more show than sound strategy to reduce gun violence.”

Mr Peake also said amnesties were ineffective.

“The people who are likely to be interested in firearms for nefarious purposes are very unlikely to be surrendering their firearms in an amnesty,” he said.

Alannah & Madeline Foundation was established following the deaths of sisters six-year-old Alannah and three-year-old Madeline Mikac, their mother and 32 others in the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

“We need consistency to ensure the National Firearms Agreement 2017 stays intact,” the foundation spokesperson said.

Ms Lee said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull needed to encourage state leaders to recommit to the National Firearms Agreement.

“We would like our gun laws restored to what was agreed after the Port Arthur massacre and for any dangerous loopholes and legal anomalies to be eradicated,” Ms Lee said.

“It is going to take political courage.”

A spokesperson from the Prime Minister’s office said: “The Turnbull Government is continuing the Howard legacy of strong gun control laws. We are also seeking to increase penalties for gun traffickers, including with mandatory minimum sentences.

“The government’s National Gun Amnesty has led to more than 50,000 firearms being handed in across Australia.

“It has succeeded in keeping Australians safe, and confirms the resolute commitment of the Turnbull Government to national security.”

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