Government denies risk of “severe consequences” for shooters under new law

MPs dismiss concerns raised in record-breaking petition to NSW Parliament

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NSW Firearms and Weapons Amendment (Criminal Use) Bill

NSW Government MPs have denied the proposed Criminal Use laws are a threat to firearm owners, dismissing concerns raised by shooters in the biggest online petition ever tabled in NSW Parliament.

Shooters have been calling for changes to the proposed legislation that would more clearly differentiate legitimate work on firearms from the criminal manufacture of guns that the bill aims to target.

The epetition garnered 28,456 signatures, making it the largest of its kind. It also reached the threshold for acceptance in record time, and it caused the Parliament’s online petition system to crash twice because of the volume of petitioners.

The petition was debated in parliament yesterday, and you can follow the full debate in the video below.

Opening the debate, Shooters Farmers and Fishers Party MP Phil Donato reiterated the concerns raised in the epetition, which was initiated by the SSAA NSW.

“If ever there was a poorly drafted bill introduced into the NSW Parliament, this is it,” he said. “Clumsy, vague, and without extensive amendment would have severe consequences for the hundreds of thousands of firearms owners in this state, including farmers, sporting shooters and hunters.

“There is substantial risk of negative consequences for licensed shooters.  

“They could become unwitting victims of over-zealous enforcement.”

He said the bill eroded common law rights including the right to silence and the right to avoid self-incrimination, and was written as if these should not apply to licensed firearms owners. 

Government members stood to reassure petitioners that the bill did not attempt to target law-abiding firearms owners.

Liberal MP Mark Taylor spoke on behalf of the Police Minister, to whom the epetition had been presented. 

“I know those who signed the petition did so in good faith,” he said.

“This bill does not threaten their lifestyle choices unless they are criminals.”

He assured those who’d signed the petition that the government was aware of their views “and will no doubt take them into consideration”.

One of the key complaints about the bill is its broad definition of firearm ‘precursors’, the tools and components required to manufacture a gun.

Shooters representatives believe possession of household tools could be enough to bring criminal charges against them, but government members spoke against this idea.

“We should be very clear about firearms precursors,” My Taylor said. “Mere possession is not an offence. It must be for the purpose of taking part in unauthorised manufacture [of firearms].

“We know that firearms licence holders and sporting enthusiasts undertake their activities in a responsible and safe way.

“But we also know that criminals, especially organised crime groups, are innovative and bold about where they find loopholes in the law to evade prosecution for their crimes.

“This bill is about closing those loopholes.”

Mr Donato responded that if that were the intention, it should be more clearly inserted into the legislation. 

“This is not an attempt to wind back the [National Firearms Agreement], rather an attempt to ensure what’s currently legal remains that way,” he said.

“Other jurisdictions have included a clause recognising legal firearms owners as being exempt unless they break the law.”

The bill will be presented to parliament again in the future, although no clear timeframe has been set.

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