• Bob Katter's believes protected estates, such as National Parks, should be opened up to recreational hunters.
    Bob Katter's believes protected estates, such as National Parks, should be opened up to recreational hunters.
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It's a good start. That's the consensus among shooters on the firearm policy of Katter's Australian Party. It's nothing radical but it would bring back some commonsense non-contentious conditions for Queensland's shooters

The president of the Queensland branch of the SSAA, Geoff Jones, told me it was a good start, and they were the first words used by the secretary of the state's Shooters' Union, Rob Harrold, when I spoke with him.

Right here, right now, both are quite happy with the policy. Sixteen years after shooters were ground into the dirt by what Geoff calls "crass politics", and after years of vilification and anti-gun rhetoric, the shooting sports are still not in a position to demand sweeping reforms to firearm laws in Australia.

"Some of our people may think that it hasn't gone far enough but considering we haven't made any movement whatsoever in the last 15-16 years it really is a positive step towards opening the door to make some rational changes that can be accepted by the public," Geoff says.

Low-power semi-autos are demonstrably safe in the long-term experience of New Zealand and Canada, where they are widely available to most licensed shooters.

Regulated hunting on public land is widespread in the US, Europe and NZ, with repeated studies confirming the safety of the sport, and the NSW Game Council system provides all the local proof you could ask for when justifying the potential Queensland Fish and Game Authority. And that's without touting the wonderful access Victoria's hunters have to public land without the need for nearly as much bureaucracy.

So while it'd be great to see bigger reforms to shooting and hunting in Queensland, we must be content with what's in Katter's policy.

The KAP policy does not bring a wonderful new world for shooters after today, only the promise of a better one.

"All of this will depend upon how many seats Katter can get his hands on," Rob says. "If he can get one or two, it'll become a historic document."

And then it depends upon the party's ability to implement it. There are incumbent bureaucrats to overcome – Queensland's public service is full of anti-firearm employees who've been known to sprout their feelings in meetings – and there's the National Firearms Agreement, agreed upon by the Australian Police Ministers Council (APMC) and forming the foundation of those draconian 1996 gun laws.

The NFA means, in theory, all states have to agree to changes in gun laws. When it suits them, the states stick to it; when it doesn't they don't. And so far, it's almost always been at the cost of shooters.

Geoff Jones calls it a "rabid adherence to the 1996 APMC agreement" and it has completely stalled any objective review of those laws – basically because no police minister has had the slightest interest in doing it.

"One state has got to start that process," says Rob Harrold. If the Australian Party gains enough power, Queensland will be that state.

Cheers,

Mick Matheson

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