NFA: When “must” does not mean must

It would seem that the National Firearms Agreement isn’t really an agreement after all.

Justice Minister, Michael Keenan – who led the charge against the lever-action shotguns on three occasions and then snuck in more provisions which we have written about previously – doesn’t seem to be fussed if the states walked away from the NFA in part or whole.

In a letter he recently sent to the Qld Firearm Dealers Association, he said:

“It is up to the states and territories to determine whether, and how, they will
regulate firearms in accordance with the updated Agreement.”

Whether?  This statement, and others in the attachment to his letter, suggest that the NFA is not binding and that they can choose not to implement it.

This is important for two reasons. The first is that it means the reclassification of lever-action shotguns is now optional (despite the premiers and then state ministers convening on the matter and making public commitments).

The hidden changes

The second reason is that the updated NFA had hidden within it, other changes no-one was told about until the document was publicly released.

Those changes mainly revolve around the inclusion of the word “must” in several areas where “should” had previously been used (ie in the original, 1996 NFA). The changes imply the states and territories agreed they “must” now do those things.

An example is a provision which previously recommended the jurisdictions impose the penalty of loss of licence and confiscation of all firearms for even the most trivial (even momentary) breach of storage requirements, which now says they must have that penalty (removing the ability of Victoria Police to use their own judgement)

.. and so on the list of “musts” go.  Click here to see our previous blog on this issue and joint industry submission spelling out the changes.

Keenan’s office had previously verbally advised that the NFA was not binding, now we have it in writing from the boss himself.

Click here to see his letter.

It’s clear he is trying to provide a distraction from the mistake he has made.  That’s the price you pay when you don’t consult.

While there is a theoretical risk that drawing this to the states’ attention could prompt them to provide for a stricter implementation of the updated NFA, they can no longer say there is any obligation to – because Minister Keenan says there isn’t.  Stricter implementation would have a number of consequences they may not like, such as cutting our Olympic and Commonwealth Games shooting teams in half (as the NFA does not provide for junior licences), discriminating against the deaf and disabled (whose competitions are not listed) and encouraging hoarding of ammunition (through imposing ammunition purchase limits).  We doubt they would have the appetite to do that.

What can you do?

We encourage you to let your local state and federal members of parliament know that the NFA is now apparently optional, and to advocate for the removal of the recent changes.

If you aren’t sure who they are, pls leave a comment with the area you live in, and I’m sure someone will help you with that information and email address.

In Victoria, feel free to copy it to our premier, Daniel Andrews. His email address is [email protected]

Here is a suggested email:

“Dear [INSERT NAME]

I refer to the recent updates to the National Firearms Agreement (NFA). While the early discussions around the NFA were in relation to the reclassification of lever-action shotguns, it is now very clear that there were many other changes which the jurisdictional premiers and police ministers were not told about.

Those changes revolve around the insertion of the word “must” in the NFA, in relation to matters which were previously left to the states and territories to consider for themselves.

Justice Minister Keenan has now written to the Queensland Firearm Dealers Association confirming that the NFA is in fact optional.  In his letter, he states it is up to the states and territories to determine “whether” to implement the updated NFA.  In other words, he is saying the NFA is not binding and seemingly washing his hands of any problems with that interpretation.  You can see his letter at: http://www.firearmscouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Keenan-Response-to-Qld-dealers-about-must-in-NFA.pdf

A joint shooting industry submission has identified the changes which have now led to this problem.  I encourage you to view it at: http://www.firearmscouncil.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/FINAL-NFA-letter-to-Keenan-attachment.pdf

As a constituent, I would appreciate it if you could follow this up for me, and let me know your view.

For your information, strict implementation of the updated NFA would have serious consequences which you need to be aware of. For example, it would cut our Olympic and Commonwealth shooting teams in half, lead to hoarding of ammunition, discriminate against the deaf and disabled, and remove the ability of police to apply discretion in instances where that is appropriate

Yours sincerely

[YOUR NAME]

Your donations at work

This letter has come about from the engagement of a consultant who was engaged by a number of shooting organisations. This work has been led by the CFCV to whom many of you have generously donated, and through your membership fees to those organisations who contributed towards it.

This is important work which has to be done, and we’re glad to be playing our part.

So if you want to know where your donations to us go, that’s part of the answer. Another part, which many of you will know about is the legal action we are taking in relation to Victoria Police’s refusal to release documents relating to the remaking of our Firearm Regulations.

We will have more to say about where this is at, probably later this week.

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  1. The NFA is exactly that: an “Agreement”. While the Federal Government may be able to control the importation of certain types of goods they (the Federal Government) have no constitutional power to mandate Firearms Regulation on the States unless the State agree to those regulations by way of an Agreement.

    What these deceptive Politicians and their filthy Public Servants would like you to believe is that that have more power than they really do. It is also indicative of the way they do business by quietly changing the wording of previously issued documents and then hoping nobody notices.

    What each State does, or does not, do in relation to Firearms Regulation is a matter for that State and it’s voters to determine.

    Just remember this, the Parliament Legislates and we control the Parliament at every election.

    Deceptive Public Servants on the other hand often act outside their authority by changing that they have no right to change yet we have no recourse against these lifetime fascists. At least we can vote a Politician out, but we are forced to pay Public Servants even when they overstep their authority.

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