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Gun owners hopeful new premier will be more open to ‘sensible’ firearms reforms

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Aidan SmithCountryman
Former WA Premier Mark McGowan and Police Minister Paul Papalia with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson and Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch with firearms, including a .50 calibre rifle.
Camera IconFormer WA Premier Mark McGowan and Police Minister Paul Papalia with Police Commissioner Chris Dawson and Deputy Commissioner Col Blanch with firearms, including a .50 calibre rifle. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Firearms owners are hoping the WA’s new State Premier will consult better and “work towards more sensible firearms reforms” in WA after they felt unheard and unfairly treated under Mark McGowan.

Shooters Union WA State advocate Steve Harrison said Mr McGowan’s “anti-gun attitudes” were well known in the industry and his departure represented an opportunity for the creation of more sensible gun law reforms that balanced the need for public safety with the lawful right to own and use firearms.

“The firearms community in WA are frustrated by the increasing level of bureaucracy and red tape they are facing,” Mr Harrison said.

“Many see it as a clear infringement on their positions as law-abiding members of the community.”

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Shooters Union WA State advocate Steve Harrison.
Camera IconShooters Union WA State advocate Steve Harrison. Credit: supplied/supplied

Mr McGowan said, after the recent school shooting in Perth, that the firearms laws would be rewritten with the main focus on community safety ahead of the right to own a gun.

He said the 360,000 reported licensed firearms in the State was too many for 90,000 licensed firearm owners, and people would only be able to have them if they had a legitimate reason.

While WA is the only State in Australia to have not totally rewritten its gun laws after the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996, Mr Harrison said under McGowan’s leadership, gun laws in WA had already become increasingly restrictive and unfair.

“They intentionally make it more difficult than elsewhere in Australia for law-abiding members of society to obtain a gun licence and lawfully access firearms,” Mr Harrison said.

“The impact of this has been felt particularly strongly by those who use firearms for hunting and recreational shooting.”

The debate about WA’s firearms reforms is heating up with politicians fielding calls and emails about concerns over the changes and how gun owners lives will be impacted.

Liberal MLC Steve Martin.
Camera IconLiberal MLC Steve Martin. Credit: Cally Dupe/Countryman

WA Liberal agriculture spokesman Steve Martin said law abiding shooters felt unfairly targeted by the State Government’s reforms and farmers were anxious about the uncertainty of what the changes will mean in practical terms.

Mr Martin said the WA Liberal Party is waiting for the reforms to the State Firearms Act 1973 to be tabled for discussion before it takes a position on the issue, despite fielding calls from upset shooters and farmers about the suggested changes.

“There is no party room position on the issue because there is no Bill,” put forward by the government he said.

Mr Martin said the idea of coming up with a specific firearms licence for primary producers was an interesting position for the government to make and a “smart policy” to satisfy primary producer groups, but the details were still sketchy.

Opposition Leader Shane Love.
Camera IconOpposition Leader Shane Love. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

Opposition leader, and WA Nationals leader Shane Love said while WA has a system which has delivered exceptional safety outcomes for licensed firearm holders and the community alike, improvements must always be sought to ensure the system continues to serve the community into the future.

“What has not delivered safety for the community is rampant non-gun-related crime, which continues to plague our communities and is yet to be addressed by Labor in Government,” Mr Love said.

“The National Firearms Agreement is one of this nation’s great achievements and any changes to the State’s firearms legislation should focus on harmonisation with the rest of the country and the Agreement.

“What we don’t know, is whether this State Government is drafting its legislation with the National Firearm Agreement in mind.”

He said those set to be impacted most deserve an open, transparent and honest process to ensure any proposed reforms consider impacts on industry and achieve best community safety standards.

“The WA Nationals believe any reform process must be driven by common sense,” Mr Love said.

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