Update on Firearm Suppressors in NSW
Stephen Larsson on behalf of the Office of Hon. Robert Borsak MLC, Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, Parliament of New South Wales, has produced a poster to update the current status the status of applications to the NSW Police Force Firearms Registry for a suppressor ("silencer") permit under the provisions of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998.
In NSW firearm suppressors are classified as ‘prohibited weapons’ and listed in schedule 1 of Weapons Prohibition Act 1998.
The Act provides nine genuine reasons one may apply for a permit from the Commissioner of Police.
For applications under the recreational/ sporting purposes genuine reason applicants must demonstrate that the recreational or sporting activity concerned ‘requires’ the possession and use of a suppressor.
Applications under the business/employment genuine reason must demonstrate that a suppressor is ‘necessary’ in the conduct of the applicant’s business or employment.
In February 2016 the NSW Firearms Registry’s ‘genuine reason’ application form was amended to include the recreational/sporting purposes genuine reason, which prompted a substantial increase in suppressor applications which had previously been suppressed.
2. APPLICATION OUTCOMES
Between February 2016 and August 2018 only one of 72 (1.4%) applications assessed under the recreational/sporting purposes genuine reason was approved.
By contrast, 108 of 109 (99%) applications assessed under the business/employment genuine reason were approved (Table 1, Figure 1).
As at October 2015 no primary producer in NSW had been issued with a permit for a suppressor.
As at 30 August 2018 25% (26 of 102) of the applications made in 2017 and 100% (61 of 61) of the applications made in 2018 (YTD) had not been assessed.
Criminal use of suppressors
Expert witnesses (police officers) appearing for the Commissioner of Police in administrative review of refusal decisions at the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) have suggested suppressors may be used to conceal the use of a firearm in the course of criminal activity, however no evidence has been presented.
A review of 23 gangland murders in NSW shows witnesses heard the gunshots in every case, suggesting that criminals do not attempt to conceal gunshots with a suppressor.
Inconsistent Adjudication of Applications
There is marked inconsistency in interpretation of the ‘required’ and ‘necessary’ threshold for suppressor approval e.g.
• “the constant noise of gunshots disturbing the sleep and peace of residents” was considered relevant in approval of a suppressor for NPWS’ Northern Illawarra Wild Deer Management Program.
• However in Marando an expert witness (a serving police officer) for the Commissioner said “the use of a silencer would not provide any significantly (sic) advantage to a hunter.”
• In Henney the expert witness (a serving police officer) for the Commissioner said “the use of a suppressor would not reduce disturbance to stock.”
Cost to the public purse
The cost for the Commissioner of Police to appeal decisions in the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal are considerable - legal representation in the Allen case cost $42K.
• Assessment of suppressor applications by the NSW Firearms Registry is marked by extensive delays and inconsistent adjudication
• There is no rational justification for the marked differences in the observed outcomes for recreational/sporting versus business/employment suppressor applications
• Adjudicators of suppressor applications are said to be “experienced officers who have the ability to read, interpret and apply legislation to decisions”
• Training for NSW Firearm Registry staff is provided ‘on-the-job’ and staff “rely on the firearms legislation and reference fact sheets and material which can be found on the NSWPF website”
• A response by the Minister for Police gives no evidence that NSW Firearms Registry staff receive training by qualified experts in audiology, acoustics or in medical conditions where a legitimate need for a suppressor exists such as existing noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus or physical disability
• The adjudication of suppressor applications by the NSW Firearms Registry requires urgent review
1. Allen v Commissioner of Police, NSW Police Force  NSWCATAD 224 2. Marando v Commissioner of Police, NSW Police Force  NSWCATAD 29 3. Larsson v Commissioner of Police, NSW Police Force  NSWCATAD 149 4. Henney v Commissioner of Police, NSW Police Force  NSWCATAD 174 5. GIPA application No. 2017-6208, NSW Police Force 6. Response to summons to produce documents issued to NSW Firearms Registry 7. NSW Parliament. Budget Estimates 2018-2019, Answers to supplementary questions * Suppressors are known as “silencers” in the Weapons Prohibition Act # Available on reques