Violation of a shooter's human rights - Cause for Concern in NSW - The Loose Cannon
I am handling a matter for a shooter at the moment who lives and works in a NSW country town.
I am advised that, Police stopped 24-hour policing in his western NSW town, and despite complaints to the former National Party member, Hon Katrina Hodgkinson, and media attention from local television stations, the government did nothing, this is despite there being a National Party Police Minister, the Hon Troy Grant.
Rolling forward a few months, the town folk, who had not seen so much as a break in for three years found their town hit by a crime spree of unprecedented proportions.
Three homes, had firearms stolen, a vehicle was even repaired by the crooks, who used it, together with a trailer stolen from the Pastures Protection Board to do a ‘Ram Raid’ on a furniture business.
It is noted that the thieves, who clearly had the equipment and tools to repair a truck, also had the ability to disconnect an alarm system on the furniture premises.
My client had a gun cabinet of the Brownbuilt type with supplementary locking points that was Police approved, but which would not meet current standards. It was broken into, and one other ‘approved safe’ which was a commercially made one, was removed from the wall and stolen by the thieves.
Presumably it had also been approved by Police.
Sounds like the fault of Police management, right? After all, they would be responsible for inadequately training line Police in respect to conduct of inspections of gun safes and ensuring adequate resourcing.
Not according to the NSW Firearms Registry, or Police.
The local Licensing Police Sergeant I am told, criticised my client for wearing a Shooters Fishers & Farmers Party cap and having a collection box for the party in his business premises, advising him that Police were of the view that shooters should keep a low profile so no one knows they have guns.
How one does this in a country town, where everyone knows one another’s business, and what sporting activities one does, and where my client actively assists the Shooters Fishers & Farmers Party on polling day and is a Branch President is beyond me.
Shooters are obvious to all, we drive vehicles that readily identify us, that often have rotatable spot lights fitted (which I guess could be used for counting penguins or Koalas), we dress like shooters in Camo and Blaze Orange, and load our vehicles with gun bags and material that readily identify us to anyone who has any situational awareness.
Police then went further, trolling through social media looking for ‘dirt’. His social media like that of most of us, is related to the sport he so loves, (and they were critical of this advertising that he hunts as well) although they did find one post to use against him after trolling through nine years worth of posts.
Police seem to be of the view that Firearms owners do not have any rights. This is not correct, the Right to Bear Arms may have been extinguished in Australia, but to their annoyance we still have other ‘rights’.
Please note here, I will not entertain ill-informed correspondence the subject of whether there is still a RTBA in Australia, as I am sick of reading ‘they can’t do that to us’ bleats from non-lawyers of the Barrack Room kind, the fact is they can and they did. In Australia, the last vestiges of the RTBA are gone, finished, Kaput.
However, the International Convention on Human Rights still applies, and here I have something of a smile on my face at the irony of quoting a UN Convention back at them.
International Convention on Human Rights 22.
1.Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2.No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others. This article shall not prevent the imposition of lawful restrictions on members of the armed forces and of the police in their exercise of this right.
3.Nothing in this article shall authorize States Parties to the International Labour Organisation Convention of 1948 concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize to take legislative measures which would prejudice, or to apply the law in such a manner as to prejudice, the guarantees provided for in that Convention.
Now, public safety could justify laws requiring shooters to conceal what they do, but there is no law to this effect, and a decision to violate human rights needs to come from a clear and unambiguously worded Act of Parliament, not from what I suspect to be the whim of a public sector manager with a fire in her belly.
Indeed, to the writer it would be most inappropriate because:
Cat A&B firearms tend not to feature in violent crime, they are not as ‘sexy’ to a criminal as a Glock, and indeed, the writer sees a lot of anecdotal evidence that Cat A & B firearms wind up purchased and used by people who have been denied firearms as a result of the NSW 10 year post conviction or AVO ban imposed at the whim of Premier Bob Carr.
Furthermore, many of those barred for ten years have also been victims of false and maliciously motivated AVO’s.
Those breaking the law are committing an offence, and there can be no excuse for their actions, however the laws that they are flaunting are hardly just and reasonable.
Secondly, Freedom of association, and in particular, that of Political Association is a central tenet of our human rights, society shall fall onto a fast moving conveyor belt toward a system like that in Stalinist Russia, Fascist Italy or China today if we allow the bureaucrats to go there.
Although they were not used to compromise his safe, Police were also critical of the presence of tools that may have been used to do so. I have discussed this matter before. However Police continue to approve safe storage in outbuildings where tools are present but there are risks involved in doing so.
If Police wish to change storage practices in that regard, a change of policy and regulation toward approving storage in outbuildings, and an educational campaign directed at shooters is first required before the big stick is resorted to.
Britain experienced a 50% reduction in farm and recreational firearm theft when it prohibited storage in out buildings, so there could be some merit in this.
We have lodged a GIPAA Request (NSW FOI) and have requested an extension within which to respond.
Here however, I am left with an uncomfortable feeling that Police and the Registry have singled my client out because of his work on behalf of shooters.
In the past, in a number of matters that have gone before the NSW Tribunal, Police have raised the fact that someone’s disagreement with the Firearms Laws as an issue. This has been rejected by the Tribunal.
It is interesting to see the new twist given to this old argument.
Sadly this is not the first time someone active within the sport has been singled out. I acted for a fellow prominent within the Paintball Industry some years ago. Just before it went to Court, I had a call from a Police Prosecutor, who said ‘What suit has your client pissed of in the Registry? I have read your submission and agree with every word you have written’. The prosecution was withdrawn.
I think it is high time the NSW Audit Office took the long trip up the coast to Murwillumbah.
Join the fight.
National Firearms Lawyer
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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.
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