Government accused of trying to ban lever-release shotguns by stealth

New definition proposed that could even outlaw break-action shotguns

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Lever-release shotguns may be banned

The Commonwealth Government has been accused of trying to ban lever-release shotguns by giving them their own definition and classifying some of them as Category C firearms.

The new definition of a “self-ejecting, manual loading repeating action shotgun” has angered the firearms industry in part because it has been unexpectedly inserted into draft amendments to firearms import regulations. 

The industry has been under the impression these firearms where simply lever-action shotguns, and has complained about being blindsided by this new definition.

“It is evident that this process has not been transparent,” said a spokesperson for the Shooting Industry Foundation Australia (SIFA), which had consulted with the government before the release of the exposure draft. 

Related: Federal Government abandons the NFA with its import regulation draft

“The shotguns subject to the proposed changes are operated by the use of a lever to reset the action after firing, and as such meet the requirements of Category B – Lever Action Shotgun under the National Firearms Agreement 2017,” said SIFA’s spokesperson. 

“The experts at the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), who maintain the Australian Firearms Information Network (AFIN), have also examined these shotguns and assigned them as a Category B – Lever Action Shotgun,” they said.

The government’s background notes on the draft regulations include a very different interpretation, saying these shotguns “are not lever action” and fall into a part of the regulations that acts as a “catch-all” for unclassified firearms, making them “highly controlled and generally not available to civilians”.

The government’s stated intention in this part of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Amendment (Firearms and Weapons) Regulations 2021 is to give these shotguns Cat B status if they have a magazine capacity of five rounds or less, and Cat C if they have higher capacity, the same as for lever-action shotguns like the Adler A110. 

SIFA and other industry groups fear that the new definition will allow states to treat lever-release shotguns differently, potentially banning them by shifting them in a more restricted category.

It will also allow the commonwealth to more easily re-classify them at a later date. 

“Not only that, but the wording is clearly designed to capture any other innovations anyone else might come up with that involve lever-releases or any other manually operated release system to close the bolt on a shotgun,” the Shooters Union said in a statement. 

After consulting legal experts, the industry has also pointed out that the wording of the new definition could very easily be interpreted to cover break-action, auto-ejecting, double-barrel shotguns — the kind that have been the bread-and-butter of the shotgun world for decades and are in Category A.

Submissions on the exposure draft of the regulations are being invited, but must be submitted by 5pm on Friday 25 June 2021. They can be emailed to firearms.policy@homeaffairs.gov.au.

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