Do Not Take Your Firearms Licence For Granted - The Loose Cannon

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I have handled two matters in the last few months that are quite telling.

Case One. A hunter left an unused firearm unattended when out hunting. He was on a property accessed by taking a dirt side road off a highway west of Dubbo, driving 80km, passing through a locked gate and driving 5km to the river.  At which point he was on a camp site several kilometres from the boundary of the property, and the river was not at the time flowing.

While he was away hunting, a flow that had been released hundreds of kilometres up stream to enable inspectors to move up the river occurred.  The firearms were noticed and Police called.

Case two. A hunter west of Lightening Ridge exits one paddock after mid night to drive 1.6km up the road to enter another paddock on the same property.  He has an unloaded and bagged .338 (no problem), a .243 from which he had removed and secured the bolt, but which had live ammunition in the magazine, (not ideal, but again effectively safe) and a lever action shotgun, that had a spent round in the chamber and several live rounds in the magazine (the problem gun)  He had thought that had he sought to unload the lever action, rounds would ‘go everywhere’ and being hard to find, and could expose him to a failure to store ammunition, and that the course adopted was the safest.

Case 1 fared better in Court than Case 2. Case 1 escaped a conviction, as the Magistrate objectively considered the degree of risk to the community.  However, I suspect that the Magistrate was rather amused by the fellow’s misfortune and did not want to exacerbate it, describing the client as ‘the unluckiest man alive’.  Case 2 received a conviction, with the Court placing great weight upon deterrence.

While I could understand the logic of the shooter in Case 2, shooters need to be aware that they should NEVER have a loaded gun in a public place unless it is specifically endorsed by permit.  For example, hunting in state forests.  The interior of your car, is considered to be a public place.

Interestingly on the same day as Case 2 there was a matter before the Court where a woman, who sought to threaten a shop keeper with a Taser, when she was approached over stealing a trolley full of goods from a store escaped a gaol term, and was told do not do it again or you will go to gaol.

Interestingly, in case two, the Magistrate placed great weight upon the need for ‘deterrence’ in the case of the behaviour of the shooter, but not in the case of the woman who was in possession of an illegal Taser I would respectfully submit he did not. Go figure.

Our problem of course rests with Parliament and in particular the legislated purpose of the Firearms Legislation.

For example, s3 of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) provides that the underlying principles of this Act are: 

(2) (a) to confirm firearm possession and use as being a privilege that is conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety, and 

(b) to improve public safety:

(i) by imposing strict controls on the possession and use of firearms, and 

(ii) by promoting the safe and responsible storage and use of firearms, and 

 

If one turns to s1 of the Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) one sees a similar principle:

The purposes of this Act are— 

        (a)     to give effect to the principle that the possession, carriage, use, acquisition and disposal of firearms are conditional on the need to ensure public safety and peace by— 

              (v)     establishing requirements for the secure storage and carriage of firearms; and

        (viia)     providing for strict control on the possession, carriage, use, acquisition, disposal and storage of firearms;

 

Similar provisions are found in the legislation across the nation.

The Firearms legislation is harsh, and magistrates have been told, during continuing education sessions, to treat matters in this manner.  

There is ‘wiggle room’, that a lawyer working in the Firearms field seeks to capitalise on, but, but there are limits to the ‘wiggling’ we can do, after all, we are lawyers and not magicians, and a shooter may find themselves facing a costly Appeal in order to have their licence restored, and no guarantees exist there either, although often this perseverance pays off.

Simon Munslow

National Firearms Lawyer
P: (02) 6299 9690
M: 0427 280 962
E: solicitor@bigpond.com
W: firearmslawyer.com.au

Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.

He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.

This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice. 
He can assist you with:

Criminal law & Administrative law and in particular that related to Firearms

• All firearms, weapons and game charges
• Avoiding & setting aside Apprehended Violence Orders
• Possession of unregistered firearms
• Unsafe transportation & storage matters
• Applications for prohibited weapons
• License Appeals
• Freedom of Information / Government Public Access matters
• Importation & Customs problems
• Advices & opinions related to Firearms law matters

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