Get back in your box, Minister: Tasmania Police

Tasmania’s police minister, Rene Hidding, has clarified how his state’s appearance laws are to  be administered.  His regulator, the Tasmania Police, has decided otherwise. 

If Minister Hidding wants to be seen as being in charge of his portfolio, then he needs to put the Tasmania Police back in their place as a servant, rather than master, of the state.

The Tasmania Police’s ‘appearance’ guidelines

Last year we exposed guidelines issued by Tasmanian Police would have banned any firearm with features such as pistol grips – a move which would have forced our Olympic and Commonwealth Games target shooters to dust off rifles more than 40 years old.

It showed the limitations of their expertise.

To his credit, the Minister took a close interest in the matter, personally responding to emails sent to him from concerned shooters.

Last week, The Advocate published a letter to the editor from Minister Hidding where he made it clear that the laws would only apply to firearms which “actually looks like a known prohibited military weapon, as opposed to, for example, a legal hunting rifle with some element of military styling”.

It seemed to be pretty logical.

May the force not be with you

Not to be outdone, the Tasmania Police got their space in the same paper four days later saying that any firearm which “appears to look like a banned weapon” would be referred to a committee dominated by police officers.

The decision on whether a firearm should be banned would be made by one of those officers and the avenue of appeal was to the Police Commissioner.

In other words the regulator would hear appeals against its own decisions – with no input from the shooting community.

They also used vaguer language than was used by the minister.

No longer would their decisions be relevant to whether a firearm “looks like a known prohibited military weapon”, leaving themselves a wide degree of subjectivity.

It now brings the same hunting rifles the minister said would be permitted, back into scope.

Usurping the minister

It should also concern the Tasmanian Government that the Tasmania Police can usurp its minister on the laws he is responsible for.

Our message to Minister Ridding is that he must take control of the situation and remind the police that they do not have a role in determining policy: That’s a conflict of interest.

He needs to understand that their knowledge of civilian firearms is limited, and that there is a wealth of knowledge among shooting organisations which needs to be used.

He needs to act now.

Here’s a brief email you might like to send to Minister Hidding:

Dear Minister

I refer to your recent letter to the editor of The Advocate in relation to the management of the states firearm appearance laws.

You will be aware that the Tasmania Police have advised they will administer the provisions by way of a committee, with a majority of serving officers and no-one representing legitimate shooting interests. The avenue of appeal is to the Police Commissioner, so there will be no independence from the decision makers. 

They have also contradicted your commitment that the law would relate to where a firearm which “actually looks like a known prohibited military weapon”. You gave the example of legal hunting rifles: the Police seem to hold a different view.

Minister, I urge you to take control of this from the Tasmania Police. They have now twice usurped your role and shown disrespect to the shooting community, the law, and your authority.

I would like to suggest you consider ensuring the guidelines are developed independently of Tasmania Police, and that any avenues of appeal are independent from the decision maker.

Your alternative is to scrap the appearance laws and rely on current laws relating to replica firearms, should be sufficient to achieve the outcomes you are seeking.

Yours sincerely

(YOUR DETAILS)

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  1. Dr Malcolm McKay

    The “looks like something that is military” is at the top of the list of meaningless reasons advanced for the regulation of any firearm. Surely the only true reason for regulation is how the firearm functions, which is basically how the system now works.

    Will the police now be arresting young men with beards because they look like Ned Kelly?

  2. Very sad state of affairs where the police not only enforce the lawsbut now appear to draft the laws. Tasmania Police used to be a very pro firearm organisation when l was a part of it but that now appears tohave shifted dramatically, at least within theupper ranks. I maybe a bit ahead of time but it appears to me the new logo for Australia could well be “Welcome to Australia, the Police State”

  3. I agree with Dr. McKay, in that regulations regarding “appearance” WILL be mis-represented and cause untold difficulty. I’d also remind all legitimate firearm owners that the Firearms Act is exactly that; and ACT. IT IS NOT LAW. It is an “ACT” containing RULES, REGULATIONS and STATUTES, NOT LAWS. Do your research, I am.

  4. Rene Hidding’s email address is [email protected].

    Modified email sent.

  5. A firearm that has an “appearance of a banned military rifle.”Will that include all bolt action rifles from WW2?

    Police should stick to enforcing the law,not lawmaking,once they have a helping hand in lawmaking then enforcing it,the country becomes a police state.

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