Is A Bow And Arrow Illegal In NSW - The Loose Cannon

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I have written previously about Weapons Prohibition Act 1996, and unfair results that can arise from its all-encompassing wording, which makes even the submarine pressure hull in the park at Holbrook, and WW1 trench art, prohibited weapons. (Schedule 1, 1A (1).

The prohibition of some of the items listed is understandable, however the definition of flick knife ‘a knife that has a blade which opens automatically by gravity or centrifugal force or by pressure applied to a button’ could be applied to many innocently owned folding knives where the screw between the bolster and blade has worked loose (Schedule 1 1(1).

A flame thrower is defined as ‘Any device that is of military design or any other device that is capable of projecting ignited incendiary fuel’- (Schedule 1, 1A (3).  So, a pressure can could be considered a flame thrower- so don’t try that James Bond trick any time soon.

Perhaps the most worrying is Sch 1 4(9) which prohibits:

‘Any device (regardless of composition) that is designed to propel or launch a bomb, grenade, rocket or missile by any means other than by means of an explosive, including a device known as a PVC cannon’.

Missile is not defined in the Act, but if one turns to the most commonly used interpretive aid in Australian Courts, the Macquarie Dictionary, it lists arrows as an example of a missile.

So, whilst clearly intended to target the PVC cannon- a tube used to fire frozen apples and oranges by using aerosol gas as a fuel, and a barbecue igniter as a trigger, (and which physics teachers love to demonstrate) captures the common bow and arrow.

I realise a lot of you are thinking at the moment, your daft, Game laws permit hunting with bows!

Yes, they do, but that does not mean that the bow is lawful!

You have to remember how much of an Ass the law can be!

Is this a mistake?  I do not think so.  This legislation has been written very broadly as a result of two things:

Policy Officers have not understood all of the permutations of weapon that could be involved, let alone quite possibly what they were seeking to prohibit, and there has been a desire to anticipate other types of devices, so the law has been written broadly.

The breadth of approach dovetails with another problem. Whether an offence has been committed or not often comes down to the interpretation of a Police Officer, and in some instances, the officer’s imagination, desire to protect the community from that imagination, plus the desire for a result.

Generally, Police do not go looking for this sort of prosecution, it would typically be by what a Police Officer considered a public order matter where someone had lodged a complaint, or a Policeman has wasted time attending your home in respect to an allegation of violence, or you have upset the officer, or for some other reason the officer is looking for a ‘result’.

Sadly, I see enough matters involving what I would class as petty criminal offences that to me should fall below a discretionary threshold decision of whether or not to be prosecute to cause me concern.

Should you go running off and lodge an application for a Prohibited Weapons Permit for a bow and arrow?

Here I can only speak for myself- and this is not advice- If I was just a bow hunter, I probably would not bother, but as a licenced firearms owner, I am particularly cautious about avoiding ANY breach of the law, including prohibited weapons legislation, because my firearms licence means so much to me, and a breach of the law for me, would have certain legal implications as a legal practitioner.

I am also conscious of an ‘attitude’ that some Police (thankfully not all) hold toward firearms owners and the impact of a culture of booking people in order to get a ‘result’, rather than the kind of community Policing / caution methodology used in other states that regards prosecution as a last resort.

If the Registry is concerned about a flood of Permit requests, from bow hunters, I make the following suggestion.

When I worked as a Regulatory Lawyer for the Commonwealth, we developed the concept of a Class licence, as a means of licensing everyone with certain types of equipment (ie CB radio) that we did not want to be bothered regulating. It worked well.

The logical choice here would be for the Commissioner to issue a Class Permit, that effectively grants a permit a device to certain types of prohibited weapon, which are held with a genuine reason for possession.

Another possibility would be a prosecution policy that removes low threshold offences from the realm of prosecution unless there is a significant aggravating factor.  The Director of Public Prosecutions in NSW has a clear policy in this regard, but I have been unable to find such a policy for Police.

The solution is quite easy- it just calls on some good will and common sense on behalf of regulators and a willingness to educate themselves about what they seek to regulate.

The outcome of such an approach would be that the public know where they stand, and at present, we do not.

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. 
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