Gun reform in crosshairs

Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
Rueben HaleThe West Australian

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association says gun ownership needs to be made cheaper and easier for the State's farmers.

It's been almost a year since the State Government announced a review into the current Firearms Act by the Law Reform Commission.

At the time Police Minister Liza Harvey said the review could result in lower fees and a lessening of red tape for farmers wanting to own firearms.

Currently licensing laws prevent farmers from using their firearms on a neighbour's property, even though it is common practice to do so to kill feral pests.

If a person wishes to use a firearm on a neighbour's property, he or she is required to be added to that person's licence at a cost of $169.50 each. It is not uncommon for this system to create circumstances where a $300 to $400 second-hand firearm can cost families more in licensing than the actual cost of the firearm.

PGA president Tony Seabrook said he was tired of hearing reports of farmers feeling like criminals when dealing with authorities on gun licensing matters.

"For some reason there seems to be a lot of demonising of farmers that need guns for legitimate work purposes on their properties," he said.

"Whether used for vermin control, dispatching sick or diseased stock, or for safety during mustering, firearms are important and necessary tools for West Australian farmers and pastoralists."

Mr Seabrook said the PGA would be meeting with the commission and placing a submission on the impact of the Firearms Act on their members.

"It is important that any review of the existing firearms legislation will not restrict the ability of farmers and pastoralists to acquire and safely use legal firearms in their daily activities, whilst ensuring the highest level of public safety," he said.

Meanwhile, Ms Harvey said her department was still reviewing the submissions from a variety of stakeholders.

"Scoping work for the review is well underway and a discussion paper will be produced shortly for public comment," she said.

"I encourage stakeholders to contribute their views as part of this process."

York farmer Terry Davies said it often went unrecognised that farmers needed guns for legitimate purposes, in particular controlling vermin and the humane destruction of sick or injured animals.

He welcomed the removal of red tape and said it should not take six weeks for a gun application to be approved.

But he did not feel the part of the laws that prevent shooting on a neighbour's property without permission warranted change.

"Irrespective of what the laws say I would not be comfortable shooting on a neighbour's property," he said.

"You need to know where your bullets are going.

"I wouldn't appreciate it if I heard bullets from a neighbour on my property.

"It may be tempting to follow a fox across the fence line, but you have to control the adrenalin."

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