The Australian firearms industry has been plunged into crisis by courier company TNT, which will ban the delivery of firearms and ammunition to dealerships around the country from 9th August.
TNT, which has offered no reason for the move, has until now been the only courier company that will handle firearms in any volume on a national level, and it could cripple the firearms industry because distributors will have no way to ship weapons and ammo to the majority of dealers in their networks.
The blow couldn’t come at a worse time, as COVID restrictions continue to have a devastating effect on hundreds of dealerships who have seen business drop off significantly.
TNT made the decision with no consultation with the industry or government, and it announced the change to dealers by email, giving them only a few weeks notice.
Australasian director of sales for TNT, Matt Daniels, said in the email that the decision was part of TNT’s “integration” into US company FedEx Express, which recently bought out Australia’s TNT.
TNT’s ban will also threaten the supply of firearms and ammunition to law enforcement and defence organisations, prompting accusations that TNT is putting national security at risk.
“It is quite scary that in Australia a foreign-owned business can set up shop, become the major industry player and then cancel essential business services to an entire industry that also services government defence and law enforcement contracts crucial to our sovereignty, safety and security,” James Walsh, executive officer of the Shooting Industry Foundation Australia (SIFA), said.
He also pointed out that the Australian firearms industry was estimated to be worth 19,000 jobs and $2.4 billion a year.
“This will cost Australian jobs at a time when they are needed most,” he said.
Several dealers we spoke to said they were extremely worried by the situation, saying that without the ability to sell their core products they would not have a business.
A senior member of the firearms industry, who did not want to be named, told us that TNT refused to engage on the matter.
He said the response by TNT executives was simply, “we don’t care,” with no explanation given before the phone was hung up.
TNT’s Matt Daniels said FedEx was “continuing to align TNT operations and transportation policies to FedEx Express”.
However, FedEx’s policy statement in the US outlines that it will transport firearms and ammunition, subject to the items being deemed legal under local law.
On its US website, FedEx made a statement in 2018 directly referencing the National Rifle Association and firearms generally, saying, “FedEx is a common carrier under Federal law and therefore does not and will not deny service or discriminate against any legal entity regardless of their policy positions or political views.”
It did say FedEx opposes the possession of assault rifles by civilians, but reinforced the position that it had no problem dealing with firearms per se.
As TNT has been handling Australian firearms deliveries and the regulations surrounding them for decades, and there has been no recent change to regulations that might make it more difficult, there is a strong belief in the shooting industry that TNT’s decision is based on an anti-gun ideology somewhere within the organisation.
However, others point out that even existing regulations have created a situation in which delivering firearms becomes “too much effort to too little gain,” as WA Firearms Traders Association president Bevan Steele said.
WA has been dealing a lack of support form the courier industry since 2019, and Steele believes compliance managers may be playing a large role in TNT’s current decision.
Either way, it has left the industry angry and on the defensive.
“This whole situation screams of cancel culture,” SIFA’s James Walsh said.
“We are a legitimate Australian industry, yet we are constantly battling for essential business services. We have battled the banks and the insurance companies in the past when they have all tried to de-platform our industry, now it is Australia’s largest provider of freight solutions.”
Australia Post and some small courier companies will deliver firearms, but Post will usually only take them on a small scale at a comparatively high charge, while the few couriers who are willing to do it typically only service a local area.
The firearms industry is scrambling to find solutions, and Straight Shooting believes the lobbying is going to the highest levels of government, but as yet there is no clear end in sight for this crisis.
TNT has not responded to our requests for comment.