Why 200,000 shooters can’t be wrong

200000 vic shooters can't be wrong

If numbers of people are a true test of how the community feels, then they’re justifiably concerned about how our gun laws are being administered.  

Shooters are after a better policy making process than they have now. It’s a small ask which no reasonable person could argue against, but is important in ensuring we end up with a better policy environment than the one we have now.

Numbers don’t lie

  • If one person stands outside parliament protesting to “Save Albert Park”, they’ll be ignored.
  • If ten people sit on the steps with signs “Say No To Fracking”, people might stop and look, but keep walking past.
  • If 500 people protest outside parliament protesting against “Cuts to Education”, the Herald Sun will turn up, and the government might do something to appease them.
  • If 4,000 cyclists turn up for “More Bike Lanes”, the television stations will be there, and the government bring in some new law to make the problem go away.
  • Over 100,000 shooters marched on parliament protesting against how they were treated by John Howard in 1996. Yet many politicians simply ignored them.

The real face of firearm owners

There are now over 200,000 licensed shooters in Victoria (214,000, actually). We know this because shooters need licences to do what they do. This makes shooters easy to count and to marginalise.

Shooters are people we deal with every day. They include doctors, accountants, public servants and business owners.

Further, you can’t get a shooters licence without police approval. This makes licensed shooters a large body of people who not only deserve to be listened to, but part of the community that the media and government should treat with more respect than they do.

The role of our politicians

We elect and pay our politicians to make sure good laws come from good policy processes and decisions. Those decisions should be based on facts and data. Yet the reaction to our social media blogs to date shows quite clearly that that firearm owners do not believe this is happening.

Instead many politicians seem to place their trust in unaccountable anti-gun groups, whose only talents and knowledge are on how to put out a media release. Or at least that’s how it appears.

Forget about the guns – it’s the quality of firearm policy development which is the concern here.

Bad processes can only ever deliver bad outcomes.

The history of poor firearms policy management in Australia remains a major issue across the shooting community, but most of our politicians fail to see it.

They say they know we are “law abiding gun owners” but that’s a problem for two reasons. First, it fails to acknowledge the problem.  Secondly it’s arguably insulting, because it implies complying with the law is one of our main (and only?) attributes. I’m not a law abiding car owner, but a car owner. I”m not a law abiding fishing rod owner, but an angler.  Politicians need to dig a lot deeper before they can claim to be working with the shooting community; and their language needs to change.

The history to this angst explains why shooters started their own political parties before and after 1996. It explains why the CFCV was formed, and explains why this trend is very likely to continue.

Anti-gun groups don’t want transparency in how good firearms policy could be made, because the current processes suit their causes. However no reasonable person could object against the shooting community, as large as it is, having better and transparent processes for making firearms policy, and ensuring decisions are informed by facts and data.

This starts with taking the Victoria Police out of policy discussions within government (which is a serious Email buttonconflict of interest for a regulator to have).

It means giving the Firearms Consultative Committee a mandated advisory role before legislative and regulatory proposals can be made.

It means making sure the minister’s office has someone suitably experienced or knowledgeable about the firearms community.

It means making sure bureaucrats who advise on firearms policy, have subject matter expertise.

That’s when good policy can start.

Talk is cheap

John Howard stood at the Sale rally telling us how decent those who turned up were. He did this wearing a flak jacket,

howardatsale

John Howard, wearing his flak jacket at Sale, 1996

Then he took their guns away according to a simple formula to removing semi-automatic longarms which bore no resemblance to how firearms are used in Australia or what for.

True, the buyback snared some military firearms (which had been restricted in several states prior to 1996 anyway) but also heirlooms and sporting firearms, including the humble 22 semi-auto.

He did this because he knew it was a ‘made for media’ response and that  shooters could not present a coherent, effective political response to his challenge.

The politics of this are not difficult to see through: Howard was a former President of the Young Liberals, a lawyer and a politician. There was nothing in his background which demonstrated any understanding of, nor interest in, firearms or firearm owners.

Yet he saw fit to punish hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who simply loved to go hunting, target shooting or for being a farmer, because of something that had nothing to do with them.  The point here is that this was a response aimed at a whole community – hundreds of thousands of mums and dads Australia wide who were clearly not understood by the government at the time.

That disconnect remains there, today.

Politicians today

Many current politicians who weren’t around when Howard’s gun laws came into effect 20 years ago will have little understanding of the shooting community or their scepticism of how our laws have been shaped through ill-considered responses to whatever comes up in the media.

Yet what we’re after isn’t outrageous. We’ve got a constituency of over 200,000 Victorians who simply want a better policy environment than the one they have now.

It will be 20 years in April since Port Arthur, which means the anti-gun lobby will soon renew its push to have repeating actions banned.

Our advice to politicians is to remember what good policy is, and how it is made.

It starts with good processes and includes the development of options and dialogue. It does not start with a five minute grab by pressure groups on radio.

200,000 is not a minority.

It’s a community.

One which deserves a lot more respect and understanding than it’s had in the past.

 

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  1. Very good article. I hope that the firearms owners in Australia realise their potential as a social and political force. Politics in Australia has become increasingly fragmented over the past 20 years, and we can expect the norm to be minor parties holding the balance of power in the commonwealth and state upper houses.

    What does this mean? Well I’ve been a Liberal Party member for many years and I can tell you there’s no love for shooters amongst the majority of party members. Nor is there the emphasis on classic liberal principles that once saw negative rights as paramount. So don’t trust the Liberal Party to have your backs.

    Don’t think the ALP will help either. Their younger members have begun to replicate the Greens’ in that they oppose ANY ownership of firearms by civilians. Where does this leave us? Well mobilise as an effective political force. Remind your local member that you have a vote and its powerful. Then ask them what their policies are and why you should vote for them. If an upper house candidate offers a position on firearms that supports us, consider the power a crossbencher has in today’s parliaments and then consider whether the major parties will look after you.

  2. Great post, this pretty much sums up the needs of shooters across the nation.

    We need rational debate with decisions based on risk vs reward, not the current ban everything mentality that we currently have. If we applied the ban everything mentality to motoring in this nation we would be walking everywhere to try and prevent deaths. Instead we understand there will always be some sort of road toll, and work towards providing the safest environment whilst not undermining the need of Australians to move themselves and goods around the nation in a timely manner.

    Once politicians fully understand that firearms are morally legitimate items to possess and that there are many lawful and useful reasons to own and use firearms they can approach this debate with the maturity Australia deserves.

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