Thursday, 20 October 2016

STATE OF PLAY: Gun importation regulations in Australia and why we are all still vulnerable to the decisions of week-kneed politicians

On 18 October 2016 Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Parliament and the nation that:

Under the current national firearms agreement, lever action shotguns are category A. There has been a move on the COAG committee of justice ministers to have those guns reclassified, which we have supported. Because agreement has not been reached, we put in place an import ban, which expired in August this year, so we have renewed it and we have renewed it indefinitely. What that means, of course, is that—…..

It is not a temporary ban. It is permanent. It is set in stone. It can be amended, but it is there—like any import ban. If the honourable member is seriously interested in the safety of Australians, as I trust we all are, let me explain. Firearms are classified under the national firearms agreement as category A, B, C or D. Category A guns are relatively readily able to be acquired. For category B you need to nominate a specific purpose, like primary production. Firearms in categories C and D are very, very difficult to obtain, and appropriately so. So the debate that is being conducted and has not yet been agreed between the state jurisdictions, who of course have the regulation of firearms, is whether and how the Adler seven-shot lever action gun should be classified. What my government has done is to ensure that no Adler lever action guns with more than five rounds can be imported in any category. They cannot be imported at all….

What we have done is put a stop on it. The fact is that we stand by the national firearms agreement. We want to see it stronger. We are supporting that with an import ban. We are proud of the achievements of John Howard. The action of the opposition in trying to use this as a distraction is a disgrace…..

I tell you that ban will remain in place until such time as there is a satisfactory reclassification of these guns by the COAG committee. That was the purpose of the ban when we first put it in place; that was the purpose when we renewed it. We stand by our commitment for the public safety of Australians.

On 8 August 2016 the Turnbull Government had given effect to the latest version of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956.

These regulations state in part:

Note:       The public interest test under item 8A of Part 1 and the national interest test under item 8B of Part 1 apply in relation to the importation of all the articles to which this Part applies (see subregulation 4F(1A))….

Detachable firearm magazine, having a capacity of more than 5 rounds, for:
(a) semi‑automatic shotguns; or
(b) pump‑action shotguns; or
(c)  fully automatic shotguns;
whether or not attached to a firearm.
The importation must comply with at least 1 of the following tests:
(a) the official purposes test;
(b) the specified person test;
(c) the specified purposes test;
(d) the returned goods test;
(e) the dealer test.

Despite Prime Minister Turnbull's assertion that the Adler A110 shotgun cannot be imported, it appears that there is no longer an absolute ban in place provided any specific application to import this lever action shotgun can meet at least two of seven tests.

Rather alarmingly under the public and national interest tests in the regulations Turnbull refers to, Attorney-General George Brandis may give written permission to import these lethal weapons (which fire a bullet per second) based on his interpretation of public and national interests and the weapon being properly registered/authorized and safely secured once in the country.

Additionally he may certify in writing that in his or her opinion it is in the public interest that responsibility for a permission or a refusal of a permission specified in the certificate should reside solely with the Attorney‑General and should not be reviewable by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Mr. Turnbull was careful to avoid the question of how easily the Adler shotgun with less than a five round magazine can be legally converted after importation into an 11 round lever action shotgun. Something which has reportedly been occurring since the Abbott Government first allowed importation of the 4-round version of this shotgun.

Today the NSW Baird Government will consider reclassifying both four and seven-round Adler shotguns to make them more available to shooters, who as a lobby group appear to harbour the strange notion that firearm ownership in this country should be covered by Amendment II of The Constitution of the United States.

Tomorrow 21 October 2016 the eight state and territory police and justice ministers are expected to consider the ban at a scheduled meeting.

Given the lack of spine displayed by politicians these days I am not expecting that public safety will receive more than lip service in any decision they make on the day.


The Sydney Morning Herald, 18 October 2016:

Tony Abbott has publicly criticised Malcolm Turnbull's failure to rule out trading away elements of Australia's gun laws in exchange for crossbench support for its key industrial relations legislation.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm said on Tuesday the government had reneged on a deal to end the ban on importing the controversial Adler lever-action shotgun into Australia. 

Senator Leyonhjelm warned he wouldn't vote to reinstate the government's construction industry watchdog unless Mr Turnbull agreed to allow the gun to be imported into Australia.

Labor moved to suspend standing orders in the House of Representatives, emboldened by comments from Mr Abbott over the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation.

"Disturbing to see reports of horse-trading on gun laws. ABCC should be supported on its merits," Mr Abbott wrote.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten accused the Liberal Party of entertaining "grubby deals" on gun laws and said reforms championed by former Liberal prime minister John Howard in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre shouldn't be watered down.

The Abbott government had previously agreed to allow the importation of the gun later in 2016, in exchange for Senator Leyonhjelm's support on migration issues.

A deal to introduce a sunset clause came as a review of technical elements of the National Firearms Agreement was under way.

But a temporary ban on the gun was extended before expiring in July.

In August 2015, Senator Leyonhjelm bragged to the Senate about blackmailing the government into adding the 12-month sunset clause to the Adler ban, claiming bureaucrats advising Justice Minister Michael Keenan were incompetent and too closely aligned to an anti-guns agenda. 

The man behind plans to import the Turkish-made gun is Robert Nioa, the son-in-law of Queensland independent MP Bob Katter. 

@CroweDM @ljayes, 18 October 2016
Click on images to enlarge

In 2013-14 115,827 modern guns were imported into Australia, by 2014-15 109,994 modern guns were recorded as coming into the country and in 2015-16 the figure was 104,000 firearms imported.

According to The Conversation on 28 April 2016 there are now an additional 1,026,000 firearms in private hands since the government gun recall after the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre and, the total number of registered guns in Australia are in the hands of only est. 6.2 per cent of all households.

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