Tasmania Police target Olympic and disabled shooters – and their own officers – in gun crackdown

Tasmania Police interpretation guidelinesThe Tasmania Police recently released guidelines on how it will administer key provisions of the state’s Firearms Act. 

However, they are so poorly thought out, they could prohibit all of the firearms being used at the Rio Olympics.

Tasmania’s Firearm Services has circulated this guideline (click this link to see it) for comment on how it proposes to administer a key provision in Tasmania’s Firearms Act, which prohibits firearms that ‘substantially duplicates’ the appearance of ‘rapid’ fire firearms such as submachine guns.

While a similar provision applies in Victoria, the Tasmanian guidelines use ‘features’ which show a poor understanding of what firearms shooters use.

Problem #1: What the guidelines would prohibit

The guidelines will require firearms to be considered for re-categorisation if they have a pistol grip, a fore-end shroud, a detachable magazine shroud or skeleton / folding/ adjustable stock.

Let me introduce you to the Feinwerkbau 800.

FWB

As you can see, this firearm has a pistol style grip, and a skeleton type stock which is adjustable in just about every possible way. It also has a fore-end which partly shrouds the barrel.

It’s also an air rifle. It’s an off-the-shelf item for the Olympic discipline of air rifle shooting. Similar variants exist for the Olympic smallbore (0.22) shooting events as well as the Commonwealth games fullbore events.

They are used for both mens and womens events as well as at the Paralympics, World Championships and the World Police and Fire Games.  It is the firearm shown in the image at the top of this post.

Non-adjustable stocks have not existed in these events for over 40 years, maybe 50. 

If adjustable stocks and pistol grips were enough to warrant firearms to be put up for re-categorisation, it would capture every rifle used at Rio.

It would create uncertainty for anyone looking to buy a new firearm or anyone traveling to Tasmania with one.

Tasmania would not be able to host major events such as the Commonwealth Games or World Championships.

It would also work against the National Firearms Agreement, which expressly includes “major sporting events as the Commonwealth Games, Olympic Games or World Championships” as providing ‘genuine reason’ for licensing.th

The open-endness of the proposed features, as worded, has the potential to create uncertainty over classifications where the opposite is needed, for the benefit of importers, the shooting community and regulators.

We have no doubt the Tasmania Police did not intend for that interpretation to apply to the shooting sports referred to above, but their “imaginative” use of terminology is the result of trying to be “too smart by half” and evident failure to consult shooting interests.

Problem #2: The pictures in the guidelines tell another story

The guidelines show examples of firearms which are prohibited.

While it is easy to see their intent, the words used in the guidelines do not match the examples they used. The Tasmania Police cannot have it both ways: they need to be a lot clearer about what they are or are not trying to achieve.

Problem #3: No provision for review

The guidelines provide no provision for review of reclassification.

Email buttonIn Victoria, decisions by VicPol to reclassify firearms (on grounds which are different to those proposed in Tasmania), are subject to review and input from others, and seems to work fairly well. It is a model Tasmania should consider following.

Tasmania Police should also be wary of the fact that similar provision in Victoria has resulted in law suits from suppliers: less certainty in the guideline in Tasmania could enhance that possibility.

Problem #4: Qualifications of the author

A few weeks ago we saw Derryn Hinch offer a range of opinions on the Adler shotgun on 3AW without having any industry qualification or obvious experience with firearms.

We made the point that if 3AW wanted advice on aviation safety, they would seek someone with relevant experience rather than someone who had no qualifications at all.

In much the same way, it concerns us greatly that the Tasmania Police should offer guidelines seemingly drafted by someone with little or no experience with the firearms used across a range of legal civilian activities.  Firing a 38 at an indoor range to pass the Police Academy is not adequate.

The Tasmanian Government needs to improve the quality of firearm knowledge available to the Tasmania Police if it wants well informed decisions.  It needs to implement an equivalent to the Victorian Firearms Consultative Committee encompassing all aspects of firearm policy development.

 Problem #5: What is the problem being solved?

In a similar vein, it is difficult to understand what problem is trying to be solved here.

While we understand Tasmania Police has an obligation to administer the law when it comes to firearms that ‘substantially duplicates’ the appearance of other restricted firearms, the ‘problem’ being addressed is not clear.

Is it about cosmetics, functions or perceived function?  ‘Features’ suggest cosmetics, where ‘perceived function’ should be the objective.

Problem #6: Where is the police minister?

As we saw in Victoria last year with the firearm transportation guidelines, it should be up to the police minister, not the regulator, to determine firearms policy.

It is especially wrong for the regulator to seek to determine how ‘substantially duplicates’ should be interpreted when that is not its role.  This is a question of law, over which the police have no authority.

The Tasmanian Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management, Rene Hidding, is responsible for the policy environment in which the Tasmania Police operates, and that is where issues like this should be dealt with.

Make a submission

While the deadline for submissions was Friday, 29 July, the note accompanying the draft guidelines invite comment after the closing date, so it is not too late.  You can send your submission to: firearms.services@police.tas.gov.au.

We’ll be putting in our submission based on this article.

Additional Notes: There has been so much to say about rifles, we haven’t even mentioned shotguns or pistols used in top competition, or firearms used in hunting which raise similar issues.

Leave a comment ?

21 Comments.

  1. Have been involved with this since it first came to our attention.
    Firearm classification should be based on function not form.
    The excuse of “it may cause fear to the public” is ludicrous as firearms spend 99.9% of the time in the owners safe, or going to or from the range, when is the public supposed to even see it?
    Regards
    Robert
    Southeast Firearms
    Sorell Tasmania

  2. Hey Robert

    Thanks for your comment. We’re keen to link up with firearm dealers so if you’d like to know how we can do that, pls feel free to drop me a line at admin@firearmscouncil.org.au

    Regards
    Neil Jenkins
    admin@firearmscouncil.org.au

  3. john Boldiston

    This to me looks like just another attempt at disrupting our sport with the hope that it will make things so difficult for people involved in the shooting sports that they will just give in or give up their love for their sport. I have been a shooter in the sporting/hunting area since I was about 17, and since Port Arthur and the decisions of John Howard (and by the way the Labor party agreed to the waste of tax payers money of course)I am just flabergasted at how the public has been hoodwinked by the pollies.
    Mental health is the problem not guns!!!
    John.

  4. I agree with Robert. There’s only three locations where you’ll legally find a firearm – in use at a shooting facility or in the bush hunting; in transit within a bag or case; and in safe storage. In none of these locations is a firearm in view from the general public so what’s the point in restricting or banning a firearm because of its appearance. Doesn’t make any sense at all.

  5. Hi I have a air Rifle the same as in the photograph above and the reason these highly adjustable target tools are the way they are is so they may be adjusted to each particular competitors Body shape and heights. I just goes to show how totally out of touch the fools in control are. Take advice from Shooting organisations not the fools in the police and Government regularity bodies because the papers show they do not have a clue on what is needed for the purpose of the competitors or hunters. Adjustable is not an issues it makes the tool safer and more customised to the shooter. Just the same as the size of a pair of shoes, a set of golf clubs, a comp push bike or a target Bow, They must fit the competitor to preform at their best . I shake my head and think What Bloody fools are purposing this foolish stuff. Regards Phill Smyth SSAA – RBA and ex pro fox shooter.

  6. Guess, less competition while you guys argue about nothing…

    Let’s take a good look at this, firearms all use a barrel!
    How a round gets into the barrel is a different story.
    Here we device all sorts of way to do this…

    In the end the only thing different in all designs is this, we call it the action. Thus where is the problem?

    It does not matter how a gun looks, or it’s system of bringing a cartridge into the barrel for firing. it is a device that can withstand high pressure and propel a small object at high speed. nothing more.

    your all running around in circles making life complicated. the result is stress for those who enjoy owning these items, and more money going into the coffers of your government. that’s it.

    Start thinking how can we prevent crime, not harass the public. not taking away that which gives people pleasure where others may miss use such. It’s like taking away a persons car just in case he may drink and drive.

    Start teaching respect, trust and care instead of fear…

  7. One would have to admit it is embarrassing that our upholders of law are now trying to adjust it to suit theories that have no basis in truth! From people that have no qualifications based in reality( apart from their own bias against firearms).

  8. It would be useful if you provided a link to the actual guidelines so that we can review them, I can’t find recent ones available for comment through a Google search.

  9. Thanks for your comment. The link is there in the text early no but agree it is easy to miss – so I’ve modified it so you can see it now. Thanks again.
    Regards Neil

  10. Once again it is the legal shooter’s thats been hit,when the elegal guns they need to get on top of. Still every time i go shooting i have to be the jumping through hoops to do something that i love doing. Thanks

  11. There’s no substitute for ignorance and / or political correctness
    How unfortunate it is that governments hire / allow / depend / even pay these bozos to write proposed legislation.

  12. How ridiculous.
    Next they will be make professional cyclist use bike’s from a shop. As there custom bike’s are to fast.
    Surely common sense should prevail, hopefully. 🙄

  13. Tasmanians should also be aware that any attempt to go against any decree from the Tasmanian Police will be viewed as an act of tyranny. Be that as it may, all Firearm devotees must resist any attempt to allow this new impost.
    Will the Police soon move against the sale of clothing with camouflage patterns, as is law in Botswana and other African countries, as the wearers could be terrorists?
    Will they conjure up charges against Gun Dealers who market goods that they do not approve, as they did when they attacked Gun Dealer Terry Hill in Tasmania, when they were concocting evidence to charge the perpetrator) of the Port Arthur massacre. They are God down there !

  14. I wish the Authorities who are supposed to make clear cut decisions based on common sense and within the law , would do so and not let the uneducated thrill seekers cause so much chaos, you are there to do a job . It would appear that we have a system that always takes the easiest and most vote counting way out , what has happened ,what’s happening to our society . There are so many other important issues that need attention, Make laws based on educated fact and common sense please .

  15. I really wonder about the people who try to impose these ridiculous restrictions on law abiding folks.

    What’s next, a ban on trucks near public places?

    We have how effective that can be given recent events in Nice for those wishing to indiscriminately harm others…

  16. Read carefully the clauses in question are quite specific.
    “Appearance” as it exists in the clause clearly means external visual appearance and not someone’s perception of what it looks like.
    “Duplicate” means an exact copy of a particular thing.
    “Substantially Duplicates” just means it doesn’t have to be an exact rivet for rivet dimension for dimension duplicate but the implication of the word “duplicates” means a clearly identifiable replica of a specific model.
    Nothing in the clause containing the word appearance or the clause that one relates to provide for generic identifiers.
    “The” firearm must substantially duplicate in appearance “a” firearm of an operation type stated in subclause 1.

    The clauses in question are well worded and quite clear when the meaning of “duplicate” is considered.

    Imagine how it’d be if firearm owners decided to observe the law so selectively as the drafters of the proposed guidelines.

    Rather the irony isn’t it.

  17. It would appear the police in Tasmania are playing the stupid card. “Where’s your sign” you bloody morons .There are no bad guns just bad people.I believe that the state police are showing their ignorance .

  18. Just goes to show how totally stupid these idiot Government regulators are just totally uninformed Fools. They should all be sacked for incompetence and stupidity- SOME ONE SLAP THE LOT OF THESES BLOODY FOOLS. So Sick of these Fools impacting the sport I compete in – li is that stupid it is like banning sporting goods wit a tick on them or three strips –

  19. Ban guns that look like guns? Absolute waste of tax payers money. If the police are confronted by a bad guy with a gun, I’m pretty confident that what it looks like will be irrelevant! Next they might try to ban cars that look like they go fast? We really need smarter people running this country.

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