17 Ways to Lose Your Licence Just Became 18 - The Loose Cannon
When my son was younger, I used to enjoy watching ‘Horrible Histories’ with him, and in particular a segment called ‘Stupid Deaths’- in which a prominent person from history, who had died in a particularly stupid manner had to front a skeleton (The Grim Reaper) and explain how he died before being allowed into the after-life.
This article started off as a firearms version- with names, ages and genders, and a few other facts changed to otherwise protect the reputations of the guilty.
It was I confess fun to write, and would have been so to read, However, given the small size of the firearms community, I realised it was impossible, to conceal some of the better war stories enough to avoid inevitable, and divisive finger pointing and question of ‘was it him’! and the resultant flood of libel suits.
So, it is with much sadness that you shall have to make do with the factually sanitised version.
If the facts are boiled down, the biggest problems faced by shooters are common with those of people in all heavily regulated areas the world over.
- Complacency (it will never happen- ‘just this once’ or ‘she will be right’)
- Assuming something to be the case when it is not
- Taking advice from unqualified ‘mates’
Or a combination of the above.
Generally, with the ‘assuming’ comes an attitude that you are happy to accept that advice- even if you know at the back of your mind that it may not be true, because you want the advice to be true, because it is consistent with your intentions.
1.BIG BROTHER WATCHES OVER YOU
If you have read the above and are starting to squirm uncomfortably, carefully consider your online posts and content, because the metaphorical rope for your bureaucratic execution probably sits on a cloud right now waiting to be dangled.
Regulators, including Registry and Police and also many employers and most Family Lawyers check social media for information and evidence, and if appropriately motivated, have been known to troll back years to find evidence of non-compliance. So be careful in its use.
Additionally, many people are ‘dobbed in by mates’, ex-spouses, work colleagues. You would be amazed at the range of people who will report someone, often for the most minor of transgressions.
2. FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY STORE AMMUNITION
This is an obvious one that is often breached. Great care must be taken to ensure that ammunition is stored and secured separately from firearms.
One of the worst offending rounds is the .22LR which has remarkable self-dispersal properties once a box is opened.
I use a trick that Nick Harvey wrote about many year ago to secure them, I get a tennis ball, cut a slit in the side and store lose .22’s in there. It keeps the lose rounds under control, and if I want to access a few rounds it is simply achieved by squeezing and tipping the ball.
Check hunting clothing, vehicles, bags and areas where equipment is sorted for missed rounds on an on-going basis and before and after hunting and adopt a drill in respect to this.
These days I also tend to use firearms that take magazines, and store magazines and bolts together. Unloading magazines before storing them.
Note on long trips, I may store bolts in a third container, so that if an educated thief steals both the gun bag and the ammunition bag, the firearm remains useless.
It is hard to have a loaded magazine inadvertently in a firearm in a gun safe if you do not store firearms with magazines in them.
There is no magic formula with storage. Think about storage, look at the rules, and develop a strategy that works for you, and stick to it.
3. ACRIMONIOUS BREAK UP
Domestic Violence Orders are a useful tool for Police, in that they enable someone to be arrested for being in the location of someone BEFORE they get to do any harm.
Sadly, many AVO’s are warranted, however, there is no doubt however that they are abused, and in my experience when I practiced in family law, about 25% are frivolous or motivated out of malice or such practical matters as securing the eviction of an ex-partner from the matrimonial home, improving Family Law Court outcomes regarding property and the children, Enhancing one’s position of getting a Housing Commission property or improved prospects in dealing with the Department of Immigration.
One of the best ways to avoid an acrimonious break up is to become involved with the right partner.
Having acted for some people over a course of up to three relationships as they navigated their way through life, The bottom line is that the person you separate from is not the person you marry or decide to live with, but there are often glimmers, and it is often worthwhile considering how the person treated, or treats their ex- most are not as evil as they are made out to be.
Often the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour- and a disproportionate response toward an ex, just might be a red flag in respect to the behaviour that you may one day receive.
4. LOSS OF TEMPER / ROAD RAGE
Public loss of temper or road rage can lead to questions being asked about one’s judgement, and thus suitability to hold a firearms licence.
If you are anywhere where there is a person who is being ‘agro’, I would suggest you leave immediately as you do not want to get caught up as collateral damage.
5. POACHING / TRESPASSING
This should need no explanation. Poaching is at best a form of aggravated trespass, that often involves theft. At common law, game belong to the farmer whose land they are on, even if they are only on that property temporarily.
6. FAILURE TO RENEW LICENCE OR ADVISE REGISTRY OF A MOVE
A considerable number of shooters fail to advise the Registry of their relocation. This is a requirement that can be a fatal one in itself.
What is often more fatal however is when licence expires as a result of a failure to renew because the renewal was sent to a previous address. Police track you down by other means, seize your firearms and then prosecute you, with each now unregistered firearm representing a separate offence they quickly add up, and fronting Court with a large number of offences is never a good look.
7. POOR STORAGE ARRANGEMENTS
Again, this should need to explanation. Visit the site of the Registry in your state or territory, down load requirements, check your storage against them and as you do so, so as to ensure you miss nothing, tick each item off.
Do not substitute your own storage standard for the Police one unless you can easily and cheaply demonstrate that to Police that yours is a demonstrably higher standard.
Then ask yourself the question, is there anything that you could reasonably do that would increase security.
Here, remember, do not assume all storage to be that for AB firearms. If you register as a collector, and change the reason for possession of a firearm, the storage requirement for the same firearm can change considerably.
Then sign and date the checklist and pop it into your gun safe so if an officer has a question during the inspection you can take him to the relevant paragraph on the Registry form.
8. RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN FIREARMS AND GUN SAFES
If a gun is not in your hand- being used, cleaned, or in transit- it belongs in the safe.
Do not leave it propped up unattended with view to coming back and cleaning it later- you probably won’t and if you leave it, you have broken the law.
If you get back from a trip- security of the firearm is paramount. Do not delay it while you have a coffee, check up on the kids, butcher the meat, have a snooze or anything else.
If you are cleaning the gun and your door bell rings do NOT answer the door unless the firearm has been secured. Why? Because if you do you are heading for one of two misunderstandings:
- if you have the gun in hand when you answer the door, a person may jump to unfortunate conclusions.
- If you attend to a visitor without first securing the firearm, you are probably leaving the firearm unsecured and breaking the law.
If it is the Police, and they hear the excuse ‘I was just cleaning the gun when the doorbell rang’ don’t expect your excuse to be believed in most situations, Police hear this all the time.
I suggest you not have your mobile phone about when you are cleaning guns, as it may lead to a distraction that causes a breach of storage.
10. LOANING FIREARMS
Law and requirements here vary from state to state, and this shall be the subject of another article.
Unless you are prepared to investigate the matter, I would not, as it is an area with many difficulties.
11. INTEMPERATE HABITS / DRUG USE
Either of these issues are a serious red flag that should need no explanation.
If you use illicit drugs there are three issues that arise- you are breaking the law, the drugs can effect your consciousness and ability to use and supervise a firearm, and you also know ‘the wrong people’ who may either be interested in, or know people who may be interested in your firearms.
A lot of illicit users are caught these days by random drug tests.
13. DRIVING RECORD
If you cannot handle compliance with road rules, how can you be expected to handle the considerably more restrictive regime of firearms licencing?
A few low-level speeding matters are hardly likely to compromise your licence, but notch up a lot of them, or drive at hazardous speeds or under hazardous conditions or whilst abusing alcohol, you can expect to be targeted.
14. CAR ACCIDENTS
A conviction for a car accident that inflicts actual bodily harm, subject to the nature of the penalty involved may activate the five- or ten-year prohibition in your State or Territory. For example, in NSW, an accident where someone receives injuries that inflict ‘Actual Bodily Harm’ and a conviction before a Court a conviction, with a penalty of imprisonment (even if suspended) or orders such as a Community Service Order or Good Behaviour Bond or penalty of $500 or more (Reg 5 (1) (d) (i) shall trigger a ten-year prohibition.
Note here that ‘actual bodily harm’ is not a high threshold injury and a bruise could qualify, nor is a Good Behaviour Bond or $500 fine necessarily a high one.
So be careful and if you are appearing in Court on such a matter, ensure that your Lawyer knows you have a gun licence so that pleas can be made to reflect this.
15. BUYING TOYS THAT ARE ON THE ‘FRINGE’ OR ENGAGING IN BEHAVIOR THAT TESTS OR CHALLENGES REGULATORY STANCES
Ownership of a Gel Blaster is a criminal offence. Yes, they look cool, and are great fun to play with I am sure, and yes, I appreciate that they are not lethal, and that they are toys.
Unfortunately, they are also viewed as being firearm on one of two counts- appearance, or because their incredibly slow-moving projectile is considered by authorities to breach the wording of a Firearms Act that does not distinguish between reality and un reality.
16. OVERLY COMPLEX ARRANGEMENTS
A large number of firearms and differing storage requirements can be a problem.
I suggest you store all rifles muzzle down and put a dab of coloured nail polish or paint on them or attach a small coloured flag to the trigger guard. By colour coding your firearms, it becomes quite easy to check them and ensure that they have been correctly stored.
17. YOUR BEHAVIOR
Police do a difficult job. They do not write the law, yet they have to enforce it.
Relationship between Police and shooters is also not assisted by:
- A negative culture amongst some Police toward shooters
- A ‘zero tolerance on gun crime’ edicts in states such as NSW.
- An attitude amongst many shooters toward Police caused largely by unresolved sores from 1996 (See Dr Tom Frame’s book Australian gun laws what Australia got right and wrong).
Police also get to see the grim side of life and attend road accidents and shootings, in which people are often maimed or die, and some of these events actually disturb the Officers concerned to the point where it effects their own well-being.
If you are non-compliant but have made a serious attempt at compliance, an Officer may give you a ticket which imposes a fine and does not effect your licence, or may even just caution you and arrange another inspection.
If you respond negatively, how do you think the Officer is likely to respond? make their day miserable, and they are in a particularly unique position to make your day miserable as well, with the result that your few words of rudeness and profanity may be some of the most expensive that you ever utter.
Whatever you may think of the person wearing it, treat all officers with the respect that their uniform deserves. There are avenues of complaint that you can take later if it is considered necessary.
18. STAY UNDER THE RADAR
Avoid drinking too much, drive safely and obey the road rules. Be a model citizen, do not cause public nuisance, avoid situations where there are or could be fights or arrests that you could be caught up in.
An increasing number of women shoot, and one comes across male ‘drama queens’ just as much as the female sort. I would use the description ‘Drama King’ as well, but it does not have the same meaning, so my apologies for a sexist comment.
You all know the type. As a shooter you cannot afford to associate with someone who might behave hysterically because ‘you have got a gun’ or who may make a false or exaggerated report.
Now for the hard bit. Being law abiding normally involves reporting crime. If someone has threatened me- and this occurred occasionally when I practiced Family Law, I never reported it to Police. Why? Because they would have used this as an excuse to confiscate my firearms and secondly, I have always been of the view that the person who threatens is generally not the person who is the danger- the real danger is from the quiet brooding type whose attack comes without warning and from the shadows.
The examples above cause concern- because they mean that it is difficult for us to exercise our democratic right and protest, other than shooter protests, where considerable efforts are taken to keep the crowd law abiding, because we cannot be responsible for the behaviour of other protestors, and we could potentially find ourselves caught up in something ugly.
Secondly, we are in a position where we are uncomfortable to report threats of violence because of action Police shall- certainly under NSW Policy- take against us.
Police have a long way to go in their relationship with the firearms community, and would achieve much by seeking to view us as a resource rather than as a regulatory problem.
National Firearms Lawyer
P: (02) 6299 9690
M: 0427 280 962
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