Firearms Regulations - Non Compliance with Procedures - The Loose Cannon

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The Firearms Regulation 2017 was described to the writer by Stephen Larsson of the Hon Bob Borsak’s office as being ‘a policy officers wet dream’.  He is not too far off, as anybody who has read the Regulation would know.

What particularly irritates me, is that I have heard from people who are on the Ministers consultancy group that they were not consulted about the proposed Regulations.  This is one reason why I would never be prepared to take a place on a government consultancy panel regarding firearms laws and regulations, because I do not believe that the bureaucrats are prepared to negotiate in respect to firearms laws in good faith.

The presence on such a panel therefore is nothing more than an ego trip for some, and a waste of time and distraction for others that leaves them feeling that they are being consulted, when in reality, they are simply being conned.

To improve the quality of Governance, the Department of Premier & Cabinet have set out rules that are supposed to govern the making of regulations. Regulations are of course those ‘rules’ that provide the detail that implements an Act of Parliament.

In NSW, these rules are set out in the NSW Guide to Better Regulation.

Now, no doubt Policy gnomes or ‘dreamers’ sitting in the Police Department and Justice Department are probably muttering but Simon, those rules do not apply to us. There is an exemption on page 9 of the Guide that exempts: 

‘Regulatory proposals which are related to police powers and general criminal laws or administration of justice, such as rules of court and sentencing legislation’.

I disagree. I would argue that ‘Police Powers’ relates to subordinate instruments under the Police Act 1900 or the Law Enforcement Powers & Responsibilities Act 2002 and a reference to General Criminal Laws, is a reference to Acts like the Crimes Act 1900 or to particular legislation governing the Courts or sentencing.

Specialist legislation such as Firearms Law is hardly ‘General Criminal law’ indeed, most of the material in the Firearms Act 1996 is of an Administrative nature, and not criminal.

Thus, I would submit that the Firearms Regulation 2017 should be subject to the NSW Guide to Better Regulation.

In enjoying their wet dream, Regulatory and Legal gnomes responsible for this abomination have produced a textbook example of how not to produce good policy.  Indeed, in thirty-three years of legal practice, it is about the worst I have seen.

Let me highlight some problems from the Better Regulation document: 

  1.       The consultation period was four days short of the minimum allowable.
  2.       The business case for changes appears unclear.
  3.       There is no assessment of the cost and benefits of a range of options, including non-regulatory options.
  4.        There has been no consideration of the status quo as an option, or less interventionist alternatives.
  5.        Compliance costs, economic and social impacts and environmental impacts have not been considered.
  6.        The action clearly is not ‘effective and proportional’, a glaring example of this is the fine for unreasonably refuses to allow a safe inspection, when a threat to suspend a shooting licence would suffice.
  7.        nor is there anything to suggest that the proposals shall be ‘efficient and effective’.
  8.       No attempt seems to have been made to consider legislative simplification, in respect to laws governing paint ball guns, sound moderators, the consideration of a business case for dropping registration of certain types of firearm for example, what possible business case exists for treating paintball guns and sound moderators as prohibited weapons, or for registering air rifles?
  9.       Nor is there any evidence of any sort of review in respect to the efficiency and effectiveness of the existing Firearms Regulation 1996

This document shows at best ignorance of, and at worst contempt for good governance, together with contempt for law abiding shooters in NSW.

I spent an unpaid ‘pro bono’ week of my time preparing submissions and lobbying shooting organisations, shooters and gun shops in order to get their responses organised. 

Many shooters, shops and organisations ‘did their bit’, some disappointingly did nothing.

I was horrified at the extent to which some organisations failed to respond adequately or at all to the task, and in which others would not talk to one another, or, if they did, sought to bully and belittle one another.

If the sport of shooting is to survive the next two decades in Australia, shooters need to wake up to themselves and realise that bureaucrats are not approaching regulation in an honest manner and that a co-ordinated approach needs to be adopted in respect to all dealings with them, and with Government.

Additionally, shooting organisations need to adopt a joint policy that is sensibly ‘saleable’ to the Australian public, and that sets out sensible gun laws.  It needs to be set it out in a document perhaps titled ‘The Honest Politician and Journalists guide to Gun Control’.  The document should be of ‘peer reviewable’ quality, but nevertheless be readable by a twelve year old student in under two hours.

We must then be prepared to spend serious money selling that policy document by advertising it in major newspapers and by utilising professional lobbyists, not going through the pretentious farce of using ‘in house’ hacks.

Shooters and organisations also need to understand that the only thing that a Politician respects is a vote, and that a concerted effort needs to be taken to punish at the polls those Politicians who either deliberately, or from indifference choose to adopt an anti-shooter position. 

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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