Dec
14

The Newgreen Report By Chief Inspector Lex Newgreen, Victorian Police

AAAThey look Cool
The Newgreen Report By Chief Inspector Lex Newgreen,
Victorian Police.
End Firearm Registration. Chief Inspector Newgreen
Herald-Sun 2 November 1990.
 COMPULSORY Registration of all Firearms should be Abolished,
a former firearms registrar said yesterday. Chief Inspector Lex Newgreen said it was the owners who should be registered, not their guns. Chief Inspector Newgreen came under intense pressure three years ago when he told the State Government in a report that registering forearms did not prevent or control criminal misuse of guns. Nor did it discourage the irresponsible use of firearms, he said in the report, which had been kept under wraps until The Herald-Sun obtained a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. Shortly after presenting his report to the Government, the man, the man in charge of Victoria’s firearms control suffered an angina attack and was transferred to other duties. Yesterday, Chief Inspector Newgreen stood by his advice to the Government. “My report was not well received because it was contrary to the Government’s policy,” he said. In the report, he described the registration of all firearms as a waste of public money and time. “Probably, and with the best of intentions, it may have been thought that if it were known what firearms each individual owned, some form of control may be exercised. “… and those who were guilty of criminal mis-use could be readily identified. “This is a fallacy, and has been proven not to be the case.” “In my view (firearms registration) does not repress or control the criminal mis-use of, or irresponsible use of, firearms,” he said. Asked yesterday if he regretted taking such a strong stand, Chief Inspector Newgreen said: “How can you ever regret speaking the truth? I told the Government what I believed to be true and correct.”

The NEWGREEN REPORT.
VICTORIA POLICE
Firearms Registry,
317 Flinders Lane Melbourne, 3000.
26th February 1987
METROPOLITAN, CO-ORDINATOR.
SUBJECT: FIREARMS REGISTRATION SYSTEM C.R.B. File: 39-1-1385/84.

INTRODUCTION 1
.

 

The NEWGREEN REPORT.

VICTORIA POLICE

Firearms Registry,

317 Flinders Lane

Melbourne, 3000.

26th February 1987

METROPOLITAN,

CO-ORDINATOR.

SUBJECT: FIREARMS REGISTRATION SYSTEM

C.R.B. File: 39-1-1385/84.

INTRODUCTION

1. In February 1984, legislative changes came into effect which

required all firearms owners in the State of Victoria to register the

firearms held in their possession, unless exempted from that

requirement by Section 46(4) of the Firearms Act.

2. To implement and complete the process, because of licence

“rollover”, a time span of three years was required – (1.2.84 to

31.1.87.) whereby

(a) On the renewal of a shooter’s licence between the above dates

the firearms would be registered ;

(b) Previously unregistered firearms sold off, and distributed

into the community would be registered ; and

(c) Changes of ownership between shooters and dealers would be

subject to registration update (disposal/acquisition).

3. By the 31st January, 1987, in theory, all firearms that required

registration in the State of Victoria should be registered.

REASONS FOR REGISTRATION

4. Before reporting on the current status of registration within this

State, it is important to establish :

(a) The circumstances under which registration was introduced

and

(b) What were its objectives and aims.

5. Obviously, unless the objective of the exercise is determined the

results have little or no meaning. To look at this exercise in a

logical and realistic way, it is of paramount importance that we

establish where we are, and in which direction we wish to go. We must

also consider as to whether or not the programme should continue as it

is, be modified, or be abolished.

6. In 1979, Delegates of the Australian Police Federation resolved

that the spread of firearms within the community should be contained,

and to achieve its aims, it was resolved :-

(a) That no person should be permitted to have more than three

firearms, without having to “show cause” as to why he should have

more ; and

(b) All firearms should be registered, and records computerized to

assist in effective control and combatting crime.

It was further agreed that the respective “Associations” lobby their

State Government opposition parties to adopt, and put into effect those

resolutions.

7. It would appear that the Victorian Labour Party not only adopted

those resolutions, but certain elements within the party were of the

view that firearms ownership be reduced to one, before having to show

cause.

8. The Firearms Traders Association, several large Firearms Companies,

the Shooting Sports Council, and others within the “Shooting

Fraternity” then actively lobbied against the opposition (then Labour

Party), as they considered the proposal was in infringement of their

rights.

9. In any event, registration went ahead, but, not in the proposed

form. All firearms held by shooters were to be registered with no

restriction as to the number of firearms owned.

COMMENT

10. It seems that the original aims and objectives were side-stepped,

and I find it difficult to reconcile as to what was sought to be

achieved by the current concept of “registration”. It seems just to be

an elaborate system of arithmetic with no tangible aim. Probably, and

with the best of intentions, it may have been thought, that if it were

known what firearms each individual in Victoria owned, some form of

control may be exercised, and those who were guilty of criminal misuse

could be readily identified. This is a fallacy, and has been proven

not to be the case.

IMPLEMENTATION OF REGISTRATION

11. From the beginning of the Registration programme, problems

developed, primarily brought about by a huge influx of work, without

sufficient staff to cope with the demand. This was further compounded

by the failure to act quickly to rectify a situation that was reported

on, and should have been forseen. Continual embarrassment was caused,

and the Registry and Government were subject to much criticism.

12. It is charitab1e to say, that from the outset, the expedient

recording of data, and issue of certificates was a disaster. This to a

very large extent has now been overcome, but many difficulties still

beset us. Primarily, caused by the processes used and an outmoded and

absolutely unsatisfactory computer programme.

13. Early in 1986, discussions were held with representatives of the

Government Computing Service, as to the feasibility of completely

restructuring our computer programme with a view to accommodating the

Registry’s needs. This would have been a time consuming and expensive

task. In view of the fact that Registry records were to go “on line”

in the “not too distant future” the proposal was not further

developed.

14. The Computer Systems Division is presently investigating the

Registry’s computer needs, and our methods and workflow practises are

being examined to establish a computerized integrated system.

15. The number of shooter’s licences issued fluctuate on a monthly

basis. this being brought about by the issue of new licenses, and the

expiry of existing licenses which are not renewed. Over a six month

period between August of 1986 and the end of January 1987, the average

number of shooters’ licences held in the State was 264,037.

16. An examination of registration applications tends to indicate that

each licensed shooter on average holds approximately 2.8 firearms.

This appears to be consistent with projections in other States, and

when one considers the fact that many shooters may have a shotgun, and

either a .22 calibre or high powered rifle, together with an air rifle,

the forecast is probably reasonably accurate. Furthermore, some

licensed shooters may not have any firearms, and others have well in

excess of three, and in some cases hundreds.

17. Given these statistics one can assume that at an absolute

minimum, in the State of Victoria, there is in the order of 739,303

longarms dispersed within the community.

AVERAGE

DATE GUNS HELD GUNS REGISTERED %

17. 7.86. 386,153 52.2

1. 8.86. 391,773 52.9

2. 9.86. 396,553 53.6

2.10.86. 406,820 55.0

5.11.86 739,303 414,832 56.1

3.12.86 420,856 56.9

6. 1.87. 424,662 57.4

12. 2.87. 435,337 58.9

The above mentioned data indicates that a small percentage increase in

registration, and at the conclusion of the programme only 58.9% of

Victorians had registered firearms.

Average number of licensed

shooters approximately 264,037

Guns registered on Master

File as at 12.2.87. 435,337

Shooter’s Licences x 2.8

= estimated guns in community 739,303

Number of guns registered 435,337 58.9%

Number of guns unregistered 303 ,966 41.1%

18. One can therefore conclude that 41.1% of firearms held in the

community are not being registered. Public disobedience or ignorance

of the law is by no means a small percentage. To absolutely establish

as to who is not registering firearms is not possible, as all licensed

shooters are not the owners of firearms, and some shooters may only

register some of the guns held in their possession, others may not

register guns at all.

PROCESSING PROBLEMS

19. Putting aside public resistance, one of the worst problems

encountered is the ability to store accurate data which can be readily

retrieved. The forms used for the purpose of registration are designed

in such a way that with the exception of a name, in some cases the

address, and the shooter’s licence number, none of the information

provided by the gun owner can be readily checked. In many cases, it

has been established that what purports to be firearm serial numbers

are in fact model numbers. Therefore, the Registry is not in a

position to identify what particular firearm belongs to the licensee.

We can say that a certain person owns a particular model of firearm,

but, the actual firearm itself cannot be identified. Without

physically inspecting the firearm, and cross checking against the

registration form, I doubt if the problem could be overcome. In any

case, it is at times very hard to distinguish between a serial number

and a model number when one considers the types of guns available. If

the acquirer does not remit the Disposal Notice, records show, and will

continue to show the firearms as still being registered in the Vendor’s

name, unless something occurs to cause a check to be made. There are

many thousands of entries which indicate a large number of licensees

have possessed the same firearm.

20. Other considerations to be taken into present system are :-

(a) There is no way of ensuring that firearms purchased

interstate are being registered ;

(b) There is no way to ensure that firearms disposed of

interstate are deleted from records, if indeed they were

registered in the first place ;

(c) It cannot be established if a licence holder has registered

all firearms in his possession ;

(d) Firearms can be registered under a number of licences. The

programme does not facilitate that type of check. Therefore,

duplication can, and does occur ;

(e) If a person has registered firearms in his name and permits

his shooters licence to expire, and then takes out another

shooter’s licence, he is not against required to register his

firearm. Section 22(2F) of the Act cannot be complied with as

the computer programme is only designed to accept data from a

licensee. Forms that do not show a shooter’s licence number will

be rejected. Many firearms are shown to be still registered

under expired licences.

21. Applicants omit to place the required information on application

forms, or endorse incorrect information, for example :

(a) In correct shooter’s licence details ;

(b) They have no shooter’s licence, therefore, should not have

firearms in their possession ;

(c) Endeavour to register firearms on a Junior Permit ;

(d) Still hold “Farm Permits” ;

(e) Have deficient categories on shooter’s licence. “A” “B”

shooters wanting to register “C” Class firearms ;

(f) Fail to forward the appropriate fee, which in many cases

causes time consuming and very expensive follow-up action to

obtain $1.00.

(g) overpay the required fee, therefore, monies must be paid

into the Suspense Account, and re-imbursement made ;

(h) Incorrect spelling or illegible writing ;

(i) Attempting to register firearms on an annual basis ;

(j) Incorrect calibres.

22. The examples cited are to list, but a few of the problems

encountered, which are extremely time consuming and place additional

demands on the staff.

REGISTRATION FEES

23. It is estimated that each gun costs approximately $4.00 to go

through the registration process, and that cost would almost double

dependent upon the action taken to rectify the error. If external

inquiries are needed utilizing the services of local Police, such costs

could rise by up to 1000% once again to retrieve a dollar. By law one

is placed in a “catch 22” situation. You know the exercise is not cost

effective, but, registration cannot be effected unless the fee required

by law is paid.

COMMENT

24. The registration programme drastically needs a complete overhaul

and update. Both the process and computer programme should be

re-evaluated. However, to implement the required changes is costly,

and should not be attempted until such time as an indication or

response is given by the Government, as to whether or not

“Registration” will be abolished or continued.

CONCLUSION

25. Having worked with registration since the latter stage of 1984, I

have known full well that a report on firearms registration would be

required at the conclusion of the current programme, and it has not

been taken lightly. Previously experience in New Zealand and South

Australia, and now indeed in the State of Victoria, indicates that

firearms registration in the way in which it is implemented is costly,

ineffective, and achieves little. In my view, does it not repress or

control the criminal misuse of, or irresponsible use of firearms?

26. IF the people of Victoria or the Government require registration

to continue in an effective way, which will be used to control and

contain firearms ownership, I would suggest steps should be taken to :-

(a) Re-assess their aims and objectives, and make a conscious

decision as to whether the registration process will meet those

aims : if not seek alternatives ;

(b) IF the answer is affirmative, repressive always would have to

be enacted on the “show cause” basis, or a labour intensive

system adopted which would rely heavily upon Police time and

resources to make registration more effective, and to provide

some degree of accuracy.

27. If one is to achieve a proper balance, I am of the opinion that

the Firearms Act should –

(a) Repress the criminal and irresponsible use of firearms ;

(b) Look after the public interest ; and

(c) Not place harsh restrictions on responsible and mature

sports shooters, whilst at the same time educating the public,

particularly Juniors, in the safe use and handling of firearms.

I do not believe registration is the answer to the problem.

RECOMMENDATION

28. I would therefore recommend that Firearms Registration be

forthwith abolished, and together with the Firearms Consultative

Committee a far reaching, effective, and proper system of education be

introduced, as a pre-requisite to the obtaining of a shooter’s

licence.

29. In conjunction with education, the penalties for those who breach

the law should be heavily increased.

30. The Governmental Review Committee is currently undertaking an

examination of the “ACT”, and the Education and Training Sub-Committee

of the Firearms Consultative Committee is examining the best means of

achieving firearms education.

31. If my proposal is considered a proper and viable alternative, I

believe it could be implemented in a reasonable time span, would be

less costly, and achieve far more in every way, than the concept of

registration. Whatsmore, it would probably be more acceptable to the

Shooting Fraternity, and just as acceptable to the Victorian public.

In that way, we would have public/shooter acceptance, and not

resistance.

ATTACHMENT

32. Attached at Appendix ‘A’ is a research paper compiled by Senior

Sergeant WATERMAN on Firearms Registration.

33. I do not propose to comment on that paper as it is appropriate

that the reader draw their own conclusions.

A. NEWGREEN/Chief Inspector,

Registrar of Firearms.

AN/sk.

VICTORIA

POLICE COLLEGE

INSPECTORS, COURSE NO. 51 – 1986

For an official copy of this document, contact:

David Foley, Superintendent, Freedom of Information Officer

Freedom of Information Unit

P.O. Box 415

Melbourne 3005

Victoria, Australia

Phone: (61 3) 9247 6801 Fax: (61 3) 9247 5736

RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER

PREPARED BY

S. W. WATERMAN

SENIOR SERGEANT 15548

VICTORIA POLICE COLLEGE

INSPECTORS’ COURSE NO. 51 – 1986

RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER

FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY

SYNOPSIS

Firearms have been present in our community since Australia was

founded in 1788. In chose early days settlers relied upon the firearm

to defend themselves and their families from their enemies and to

provide a means of procuring sustenance for the family table.

Neither of those requisites for ownership of a firearm exist in

today’s society, however the number of firearms present in our

community is estimated at a staggering one million, almost all of

which are owned and used for sporting purposes. In recent times the

proliferation of firearms, as cause to Governments to impose stricter

ownership controls and stricter means of usage. Registration is one

such measure and has been adopted universally by Democratically

elected Governments such as those in the Australian States, New

Zealand and Great Britain.

The mandatory registration of firearms has been instituted in Victoria

since 1983, in the interim period of 3 years other Australian States

and overseas countries have seen fit to abandon the scheme and replace

it with stricter forms of firearms ownership. With these recent

events in. mind the topic of firearms registration and control of

firearms legislation by police has been critically examined.

Legislation of Australian States, New Zealand and Great Britain has

been reviewed and interviews conducted with members of the legal

service, Police firearms authorities and officials from the sports

shooting fraternities with the view of obtaining a global view of

community feelings.

The conclusions are quite apparent and the recommendations sound-

There can be no doubt that firearm registration is ineffective and

that education of the firearm user of paramount importance. In

conclusion there is also little doubt that the Police as a body are

the most suitable agency to supervise firearms legislation and

control.

– 1 –

VICTORIA

POLICE COLLEGE

INSPECTORS, COURSE NO. 51 – 1986

RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER

FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY?

TABLE OF CONTENTS

_________________________________________________________________

Item Page Paragraph

_________________________________________________________________

History of Victorian Firearms Control 3 – 9

Initial Legislation 3 6 – 7

First Firearms Act 3 8 – 9

Objectives of Current Firearms Act 3 10

Shooters Licence 4 11 – 12

Licensing Procedures 4 13

Licence Fee and Proviso’s 5 14

Renewal of Shooters Licence Fee 5 15

Cancellation of Shooters Licence 5 16 – 17

Firearm Registration 5 18 – 20

Contributors & Resistance to Legislation 6 21 – 24

Changes

Implementation to Registration 7 25 – 26

Notice of Disposal 7 27 – 78

Airguns and Air rifles 8 29 – 31

Registration of Pistols 9 32 – 35

New South Wales Licensing and Registration 9 11

Procedure

Licensing of Firearms 9 36 – 37

Police Discretion 10 38

Revocation 10 39

Registration 10 40 – 41

Comment 11 42

Queensland Legislation 11 – 12

No Existing Licensing Scheme 11 43

Reason Why No Gun Controls 11 44

Comment 12 45

– i –

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Item Page Paragraph

_________________________________________________________________

South Australian Legislation 12 – 14

Licensing 12 46 – 48

Registration 13 49

Revocation of Licence 13 50

Firearms Consultative Committee 13 51

Comment 14 51

Northern Territory Legislation 14 – 15

Licensing 14 52

Registration 15 56

Comment 15 57

West. Australian Legislation 15 – 16

Licensing Procedure 15 58 – 59

Registration 16 60 – 62

Comment 16 63

Tasmania Legislation 16 – 17

Firearms Control 16 64 – 65

A.C.T. Legislation 17 – 18

Firearms Legislation 17 66

Application for Firearm Licence 17 67

Registration 17 68

United Kingdom Legislation 13 – 20

Firearm Laws 15 69 – 70

Police Involvement 15 71 – 74

Effectiveness of Policy 19 75 – 78

Renewal of Registration 20 79

 

New Zealand Registration 20 – 23

Firearm Registration 21 80 – 83

Board of Enquiry 21 84 – 85

Licensing Procedures for Firearm Owners 22 86

Tables of Comparisons 23 87

Interviews and Opinions 23

Sports Shooting Association 23 88

Government Statute Draughtsman 24 89

– ii –

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Item Page Paragraph

_________________________________________________________________

Conclusions 25 – 28

Areas Reviewed 25 90 – 91

Number of Firearms in Victoria 26 92 – 94

Registration of Firearms “Is it a Police 27 95

Responsibility

Registrar 27 96

Police Role 27 97 – 98

Can the Task of Registration be effectively 27 99 – 100

carried out

Registration and Administration –

Police Role 2,3 101 – 106

Lack of Firearms Safety Tests 29 107

in Victoria

Recommendations 29 – 30

Reposed Amendment 29 108

Political Motives 30 109

Education 30 110

Police Control 30 111

Bibliography 31 – 32

Appendix A 33 – 38

B 39 – 42

C 43

D 44 – 49

E 50

F Old Police Perspective 51

G 52

H 53

I 54

J 55

– iii –

VICTORIA

POLICE COLLEGE

INSPECTORS’ COURSE NO. 51 – 1986

RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER

FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY?

ALPHABETICAL INDEX

Item Page Paragraph

_________________________________________________________________

Abandoned Registration – South Australia 14 51

A.C.T. Legislation – 17 66 – 68

– Application for Firearm Licence 17 67

Airguns and Air Rifles – Definition 8 29 – 30

– South Australia 12 47

– Victoria 8 29 – 30

Arms Act – New Zealand 20 80

Australian Firearms Law Institute 11 41

Australian Police Federation 6 21

Brower, Robert 8 31

Bureau of Statistics – Australia 2 1

Cancellation of Shooters Licence – Victoria 5 18

Civillian Administration – Victoria 25 89

Civil liberties invasion – Victoria 24 88

Clarke, Edward 26 92

Conclusions 25 – 29 90 – 107

Cost-effectiveness – Dollars 25 89

– Objective 25 89

Criminal Element 9 35

Criminal Records – United Kingdom 17 72

– New Zealand 21 82

Emmersley, Robert 24 89

Enquiry – New Zealand 21 83 – 85

Fine, David J. 13 51

Firearms – Australia 2 1

– Consultative Committee – South Au. 13 51

– Consultative Committee – Victoria 9 31

Firearms Education 30 110

Firearms – Registration – Victoria 3 16

– New South Wales 10 40 – 41

– South Australia 13 49

– Queensland 11 49

– iv –

ALPHABETICAL INDEX

Item Page Paragraph

_________________________________________________________________

Firearms Registration – Tasmania 16 64

– A.C.T. 17 68

– United Kingdom 19 71

– New-Zealand 20 80

– Northern Territory 15 56

– West Australia 16 60 – 62

Firearms Traders Association – Victoria 6 23

Game Act Victoria 3 7

Government Statute Draughtsman 24 88

Greenwood, Colin 27 89

Gun Dealer Victoria 7 25 – 27

Homicides – Northern Territory 15 57

Humane Killing Devices 4 11

Illegal Firearms 9 31

Ill Feeling – Firearms Inspector 23 88

Illegal Firearm 9 31

Labour Government – Left Wing 23 88

– Victoria 5 18

Licensing Procedures – A.C.T 17 66 – 68

– New South Wales 9 36

– Northern Territory 14 52

– New Zealand 72 86

– Queensland 11 43 – 44

– South Australia 12 46

– Tasmania 16 64

– Victoria 4 13

– United Kingdom 19 73 – 74

– West Australia 15 59

Licence Fee – Victoria 5 14

” ” 5 19

” ” 25 89

New South Wales Legislation 9 35 – 39

New Zealand – Board of Enquiry 21 84 – 85

– Legislation 23 80 – 87

– Mountain Safety Council 22 86 – 87

Non Registration – Victoria 26 92

Notice of Acquisition – Victoria 8 28

Notice of Sale – Victoria 8 28

Northern Territory – Legislation 14 52 – 57

Number of Firearms allowed – Victoria 26 92

Objectives of Act – Victoria 4 10

24 89

– v –

ALPHABETICAL INDEX

Item Page Paragraph

_________________________________________________________________

Pea Rifle and Saloon Gun Act 3 7

Pistols – Victoria 9 33 – 35

Police control of Act – A.C-T. 17 66

– New South Wales 11 42

– Northern Territory 14 52

– New Zealand 21 81 – 83

– Queensland 12 45

– South Australia 12 46

– Tasmania 16 64 – 65

– Victoria 3 14

– United Kingdom 18 71

– West Australia 15 59

Police Prosecutions – Victoria 25 89

Police Role 26 97 – 98

Politics 29 100

Queensland Government 12 45

Queensland Legislation 11 43 – 45

Registrar – Firearms – A.C.T. 17 67

– Victoria 9 32

Rippon. Tom 6 19

Registration of Firearms – A.C.T. 17 76 – 77

– New South Wales 11 42

– Northern Territory 15 56

– New Zealand 21 81 – 83

– Queensland 11 44

– South Australia 13 49

– Tasmania 16 64 – 65

– Victoria 9 32

– United Kingdom 18 71

– West Australia 16 60

Safety Tests – lack of 29 107

– New Zealand 22 86

– Recommended 30 110

Shark gun – power heads 4 11

Shooting – Sports Council of Victoria 8 31

Shot guns – United Kingdom 17 70

South Australian Legislation 12 46 – 51

Survey – Firearms 13 48

Sports Shooting Association 23 88

Tasmanian Legislation 16 64 – 66

Surveys 17 65- vi –

ALPHABETICAL INDEX

Item Page Paragraph

_________________________________________________________________

United Kingdom – Applications 19 73 – 74

– Fees 24 88

– Legislation 18 – 20 69 – 79

Victorian Firearms Act – First 3 8 – 9

Victorian Voters 6 23 – 24

Wales – Firearms Numbers 29 76

West Australia Legislation 15 58 – 63

– vii –

VICTORIA

POLICE COLLEGE

OFFICERS’ COURSE NO. 51 – 1986

RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER

FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY?

INTRODUCTION

Firearms in the Community

1. In the last official survey in 1975 carried out by the Bureau of

Australian Statistics (1) there were estimated to be 1,354,700

firearms in Australia and 338,200 in Victoria. (See Appendix “A”).

2. There has been no survey conducted since 1975 but the latest

estimates of firearms in Victoria by the Firearms Registry in 1982

suggests one million, a dramatic rise in eleven years. (2).

3. Up until April 1986 there was 260,000 licensed shooters’ or gun

owners’ in Victoria. A further 20,000 persons were anticipated to

become licensed by June 1986. The current estimates put the number of

firearms per licensed persons at 2.8 firearms. In interpreting those

figures and the inclusion of airguns and rifles then the figure of

1,000,000 firearms becomes realistic. (3)

Purpose for this Paper

4. It is my intention in this paper co critically examine some

aspects of firearms registration and the control in licensing the

persons to use these firearms. More importantly, should it be a

Police responsibility and can this be effectively carried out and

controlled.

______________________________________________________________

(1) General Social Survey. Australian Bureau of Statistics..

1975. p.3

(2) Interview with the Registrar of Firearms for the State of

Victoria Chief Inspector B. Fennessy on April 5th, 1986.

(3) Interview with Chief Inspector Fennessy.

– 2 –

5. In drawing my conclusion I have made use of my research both in

Victoria, other Australian States and overseas in respect to firearm

controls.

History of Victorian Firearms Control

6. Initial Legislation. The first recorded Victorian legislation

to control the use and possession of firearms was The Pea Rifle and

Saloon Gun Act proclaimed on November 25th. 1912. (See Appendix “B”).

In essence the Act was introduced in order to set the legal minimum

age for ownership of Pea rifles and Saloon guns, legislation was also

made to create the offences of supplying pea rifles, saloon guns and

ammunition to persons under 18 years of age. It is interesting to

note that at this time firearm control was made a police

responsibility in the organization and control of the Act.

7. The Game Act (now the Wildlife Act) was also responsible for

the prohibition of shooting certain species of animals and for setting

bag limits for game and controlling the type of firearms used for

taking game.

8. First Firearms Act. In 1922 the first Victorian firearms Act

was proclaimed and closely followed the workings of the English Act

that had beer& proclaimed two years earlier. Apart from controlling

@un dealers it also made police permission necessary to Purchase or

possess a concealable firearm (pistol).

9. From 1953 to 1972 the Act extended the provision to include

rifles other than pea rifles. This provision was introduced to try to

keep control over high powered rifles and the people who used them.

Members of the shooting fraternity expressed considerable

dissatisfaction with these provisions and in 1972, following several

reports of the Statute Law Revision Committee of the 1960’s, the then

Liberal Government repealed the legislation and introduced the

Shooters Licence, the system that we now operate under.

10. Objectives of Current Firearms Act. The present day Firearms

Act has now consolidated all firearms offences and they are now

included in the one Act. The Act has been proclaimed to:

(a) Control firearm sales and their safe use.

(b) Allow those who participate in firearms sport-to do SC,

in a controlled manner.

(c) support the security industry.

(d) Control and regulate the safe use and presence of

firearms in the community.

– 3 –

11. Shooters Licence. From 1972 to 1983 the only firearms required

to be registered related to pistols and instruments like humane

killing devices shark gun power heads and similarly declared weapons.

12. During this period legislation was enacted that required all

persons who were to purchase, carry, possess or use certain firearms

to hold a shooters licence, permit or other authority. This

legislation was to cover, rifles, shotguns etc.

“Subject to the provisions of this Act no person shall

purchase, possess, carry or use a firearm of a type in any

category referred to in sub-section (4) unless he holds a

shooters licence, permit or other authority granted under

this

parc authorizing him to purchase, possess, carry or use such

firearm”. (4)

13. Licensing Procedures. Any persons resident in the State of

Victoria who requires a shooters licence has only to go to his local

Police Station, where he will be interviewed by a Policeman.

Providing that he can produce sufficient identification and he can

satisfy the policeman that he is:-

(a) of good character.

(b) over 18 years of age.

 

(c) has good reason to possess a firearm.

 

(d) good knowledge of firearm safety procedures and law.

 

(e) will ensure proper storage of firearms when not in use.

 

(f) is not insane, of sober habit and otherwise a person fit

to be trusted to use the firearm properly.

 

Then after a cooling off period of 3 weeks be issued with a

Shooters Licence vide Section 4 of sub-section 22AA of the Firearms

Act:-

(4) (a) Every shooters-licence shall be in the prescribed

form and shall authorize the holder –

(i) to purchase, possess, carry and use any

firearm (not being a pistol) of any one

or more of the following categories specified

in the licence:-

A – Shot gun.

B – Pea rifle, air gun, air rifle.

C – Any other rifle. (5)

_______________________________________________________________

(4) Firearms Acc 1958. No. 6251. Section 2TAA (1).

(5) Firearms Act 1958. No. 6251. Section 22AA (4) (a).

– 4 –

14. Licence Fee & Proviso’s. At present the annual fee for a

shooters licence is $10.00 per year- The applicant may select either

an annual licence or a three year licence. The Government has also

made provision for exemptions from payment for primary producers and

their employees. Pensioners may also obtain licences at a reduced

price.

15. Renewal of Shooters & Licence Fee. Upon the expiration of the

shooters licence the holder must decide if he wishes to renew the

licence or not. Provided that he is still a suitable person he may

pay his renewal fee at his local bank. The police do not’ play any

role in the renewal process and fee collection.

16. Cancellation of Shooters Licence. The Registrar may cancel any

shooters licence it in his opinion the holder of a licence:-

(a) Has proved to be irresponsible for the handling, care and

storage of the firearm when nor in use.

(b) Is shown not to be of good character.

(c) Has wilfully made a false statement on his application form

for a shooters licence.

(d) Has been convicted in Australia of an offence which

renders him as an unsuitable person to hold a licence.

17. The Registrar of the firearms may also apply to the Firearms

Consultative Committee for cancellation of a shooters licence if the

licensee is a person of intemperate habits or insane or otherwise

unfitted to be entrusted with the care and use of firearms.

Firearm Registration

18. Reviewing of the Legislation. As previously mentioned in

paragraph 9 a form of firearm registration existed in Victoria between

1953 and 1972. However in 1983 the Labour Government of Victoria

introduced as legislation the mandatory registering of all firearms

within Victoria. The registration was to be phased in over a period

of 4 years by each licensed shooter submitting derails of his or her

firearms when they renewed their shooters licences. At the same time

Licensed Gun Dealers were to also submit details of firearms sales as

they were made, buyers and sellers of firearms were also to submit the

relevant details to the Firearms Registrar. The purpose of this

exercise was to have on record by February 1987, every firearm in the

State of Victoria.

19. A fee of $1.00 per firearm was set as the total registration

amount. The firearm was to be registered on a once only basis

provided that it was not re-sold. The Victoria Police were made the

organizing body and a new position entitled ‘Registrar of Firearms’

created.

– 5 –

20. Prior to the implementing of firearms registration the various

factions of the shooting fraternity protested against registration in

a vigourous manner. To appreciate the situation in Victoria it is

necessary to examine the events leading up to registration.

21. Contributers & Resistance to Legislation Changes. In 1979,

Delegates of the Australian Police Federation met in Darwin to discuss

points of mutual interest. Inspector T. Rippon the Secretary of the

Victoria Police Association was present at the meeting and in an

interview with him on April 7th, 1986 he related the following

points:-

(a) Delegates from all States of Australia adopted the view

that the spread of firearms throughout. the community

should be contained.

(b) That no one person should be permitted to possess more

than three firearms without having to show cause why they

should have another.

(c) That all firearms should be registered and those records

computerised for the use of police in combatting crime. (6)

(d) That the Delegates from each Australian State should

adopt this policy as the official Police Federation

policy and that their respective associations would lobby

their state government opposition parties to adopt their

recommendations.

22. Inspector Rippon states that in 1981 the Labour Party were in

opposition and that they adopted the majority of the recommendations

made by the Police Association. They did however propose the number

of firearms allowable to each person before having to show cause, to

one.

23. Upon this formula becoming public the Firearms Traders

Association and several large firearms companies such as Remington and

Winchester petitioned the 380,000 licensed shooters in Victoria

recommending co them not to vote Labour as registration was an

invasion of their privacy and the restriction in the number of

firearms permitted an infringement on their rights. (The notice

distributed is attached at Appendix “C”).

24. In addition members of the various shooting associations

circulated papers (Appendix “D” also see interviews in paragraph’s 88

and 89) advocating none of their members vote Labour at the

forthcoming elections. The Labour party realised that they could

jeopardise those 380,000 voters and thus modified their stance to the

present situation by not imposing a limit.

_______________________________________________________________

(6) Interview wich Inspector T. Rippon, Secretary of The Victoria

Police Association, Melbourne on March 30th, 1986.

– 6 –

Implementation of Registration.

25. on November 29th, 1983 the laws applicable to registration of

firearms came into operation under Section 22AA of the Firearms Act.

The Sub-sections are as follows:-

” (11) Every person who is the holder of a shooters licence at

the commencement of Section 11 of the Firearms (Amendment)

Act 1983 shall when he next applies for renewal of his

licence after the said commencement notify the registrar in

writing the particulars as prescribed of all firearms then

in his possession and shall forward with the notification a

fee of $1 for each of those firearms.

(12) When issuing or renewing a shooters licence the registrar

shall record upon the licence particulars of all firearms in

the possession of the holder of the licence and in

circumstances where such recording is not practicable, may

issue a certificate of registration in respect of chose

firearms.

(13) The holder of a shooters licence who acquires a firearm

as a beneficiary under a will shall within 14 days of

acquiring the firearm complete and forward to the Registrar

a Notice of Acquisition of the firearm in the prescribed

form”. (7)

26. The above provisions relate to people already in possession of

firearms at the time of the commencement of the Registration period.

In addition Legislative provision was made for people who buy and

sell firearms other than antiques, firearms or pistols. Any person

who sells a firearm to:-

(a) Any person required by this Act to have firearms in his

possession registered; or

(b) A licensed gun dealer –

shall at the time of the sale deliver to the purchaser a completed

Notice of Disposal in the prescribed form together with the current

Registration of the firearm (if any). (8)

Notice of Disposal

27. Legislation has also been made to cover the situation whereby

the purchaser is not required to have the firearm registered, i.e. an

interstate buyer:-

______________________________________________________________

(7) Ibid., Section 22AA (11) (12) (13).

(8) Ibid., Section 22AA (9).

– 7 –

“Any person who sells a registered firearm, not being a pistol

or antique firearm to any person not required by this Act to

have firearms in his possession registered (other than a

licensed gun dealer) shall within 14 days of the sale deliver

or cause to be delivered to the Registrar a completed Notice of

Disposal in the prescribed form together with the current

certificate of registration of the firearm”. (9)

28. Just as the seller has an obligation to notify the Registrar so

does the purchaser:-

“Within fourteen days of the sale of a firearm, not being a

pistol or antique firearm, the purchaser of the firearm, if

required by this Act co have firearms in his possession

registered or if a licensed gun dealer shall send or deliver

to the Registrar:-

(a) A completed Notice of Aquisition in the prescribed form;

(b) The Notice of Disposal and Certificate of Registration

(if any) delivered to him under sub-section (2B); and

(c) A fee of $1.00”. (10)

Airguns and Air Rifles

29. Air guns and Air Rifles are now included in the definition of

firearm. Formerly this was not the case however in an effort co

create uniformity throughout Australia almost all states amended their

legislation to include air guns and air rifles as firearms. Tasmania

was the only state not to amend their legislation.

30. It is however difficult to make any sort of estimate as to how

many air guns and air rifles there are in the community as in the past

there was little or no control over ownership. Formerly the only forms

of control have been in relation to trespass to farms and young

persons seeking an authority from the Officer In Charge of the local

police station granting him permission to carry and use such weapons.

31. The inclusion of air guns and-air rifles in the definition of

‘firearm’ has introduced a whole new range of shooters licence

applicants. There is no doubt that there are significant numbers of

such firearms in the community. In an interview with Robert Brewer,

the Secretary of Shooting Sports Council of Victoria, he stated chat

he had inspected the importation figures over the past several years

and he had no doubt that there was a minimum of 200,000 air guns and

air rifles in the community. (11)

_______________________________________________________________

(9) ibid., Section 22AA (2C).

(10) Ibid., Section 22AA (2D).

(11) Interview with Robert Brewer, Secretary of the Victorian

Shooters Sports Council.

– 8 –

Registration of Pistols

32. One of the major duties of the Registrar of Firearms in Victoria

is the issue of pistol licences to approved applicants. Most licences

for pistols in Victoria relate to members of sporting or shooting

clubs and the Security industry. in the past employee’s of security

companies were personally licensed and owned their own handguns, this

created problems particularly after the employee had finished work.

The situation has now been altered and the company holds the pistol

licence, the employee receives his firearm at the start of work and

hands it in at the completion of his shift.

33. At the completion of 1985 there were 12,028 pistols and handguns

in the State of Victoria and 14,574 licences to carry these firearms.

(Appendix E) A thorough screening is given to all applicants for

licences and this assists to eliminate those that are considered

unsuitable to hold a pistol licence.

34. The Registrar has the power to cancel pistol licences for

persons no longer found to be suitable, this in fact happens from time

to time. The licence holder has a right of appeal to the Firearms

Consultative Committee, upon receiving an adverse decision he also has

the right to appeal to a magistrates Court.

35. This particular area of firearms control is well managed and the

incidence of offences detected by licensed pistol owners is minimal.

Whilst it must be accepted that there will allways be illicit handguns

and pistols in the hands of criminals, the control of legal pistols

etc. and the licensing of those individuals is an excellent example of

good management by Police Administration.

“If the legal distribution of firearms were restricted, the

illegal sources of supply – theft, smuggling and illegal

manufacture – would greatly expand to fill this gap. The cold

hard fact remains – the criminal element has allways found and

will continue to find, a way to obtain an illegal firearm”.(12)

NEW SOUTH WALES LICENSING AND REGISTRATION PROCEDURE

Licensing of Firearms

36. It is illegal in New South wales for a person to possess a rifle

or shotgun unless he has a current shooter’s licence. Applications

for shooter’s licence can only be lodged at a Police Station or the

Police Firearms Registry. It is the practise of the Police to issue

the shooter’s licence immediately if the application lodged by the

applicant does not disclose any adverse information and the applicant

is over the age of 18 years. Proof of age is required.

_______________________________________________________________

(12) The Police Chief, March 1985. Article by Gregor J. Sambor,

‘Tracing Firearms’. p.75.

– 9 –

37. The applicant may be required to undertake a written or oral

test chat relates to safety procedures appropriate to the class of

firearm he desires.

Police Discretion

38. The Commissioner of New South Wales Police has vested in him

unlimited discretion to grant or refuse shooter’s licences. It also

enjoins him not to licence persons unless they are:-

(a) Of good character and repute.

(b) Fit and proper to possess firearms.

Revocation

39. The Commissioner and the Registrar have the power to revoke a

shooters licence in New South Wales but only on certain conditions,

the are:-

(a) Applicant made false statements on his application when

applying for a shooters licence.

(b) Where he is convicted in New South Wales or elsewhere of a

firearms offence.

(c) Where the holder of a licence can no longer afford the licensed

firearms adequate control or where he is proved to be negligent

and careless in the use of a firearm.

Upon receipt of notice that his licence is revoked the applicant is to

surrender same to the Police. (13)

Registration of Firearms

40. A recent amendment to the Firearms Act has now included

mandatory firearm registration. Initially the N.S.W. Government went

against registration preferring to make the penalties for firearms

offences and crimes involving firearms much heavier than they had

been. The incidence of armed robberies and other firearm related

crime has now been instrumental in their change of direction. In

1983, there were over 1,000 armed robberies alone. (14)

______________________________________________________________

(13) Firearms Laws in Australia. J. David Fine. CCH Australia

Limited, Sydney, N.S.W. p.4.

(14) N.S.W. Armed Robbery Squad 1983 statistics.

– 10 –

 

41. At present Registration is accomplished in two ways. Rifles

and shotguns owned before the introduction of registration must be

registered with the Police and the fee paid then. Only holders of

current shooters licences are permitted to register long guns and

Police have the power to demand inspection of the firearm before

registration. Long guns acquired after the start of the registration

scheme will now be registered automatically by the police as a permit

is now required to purchase a particular firearm before the actual

purchase takes place. There is no limit on the number of firearms

one may own.

Comment

42. N.S.W. legislation is now very similar to Victorian

legislation with the added rule that one must obtain a permit to

purchase a long gun before he can actually buy the firearm. The

Police as in Victoria control the issue of shooters licences and

registration of the firearms.

QUEENSLAND LEGISLATION

No Existing Licensing Scheme

43. Unless one comes within a class of prevented or prohibited

persons, anyone can own, use, acquire and dispose of rifles and

shotguns in Queensland without the need for a licence or permit.

Queensland neither licences shooters nor issues licences in respect

of long guns. Pistols are registered and the owners licensed.

Reason Why No Controls

44. Although some members of the community expressed concern at

the lack of firearm legislation, members of the Australian Firearm

Law Institute conducted a comparison test between Queensland, West

Australia and the Northern Territory who have had licensing and

registration procedures dating back to 1950. West Australia was

selected because it has the longest history of restrictive legislation

in Australia. It was found after comparing the three states, two

with severe restrictions on firearms and the other with almost no

restrictions that there was very little difference between them and

that in almost every component Queensland fared slightly better. On

this basis alone it was decided not to introduce licensing shooters

or registration. (15)

_____________________________________________________________________

(15) Firearms Control. Carl G. Vandal. Australian Firearm Law

Institute 1984, reprint. p.7.

– 11 –

 

Comment

45. The same survey showed that if the Queensland Government were

to introduce licensing of firearm owners and register those firearms

then they would effectively require a further 282 personnel and that

the total cost of implementing such a scheme would be in excess of

six million dollars. The Government felt that to introduce such a

scheme would reduce the effective strength of the Police Force by 6½

per cent. The Government concluded that in Queenslands case it was

not cost effective to introduce restrictive firearms legislation.

See Appendix “F”. (16)

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN LEGISLATION

Licensing

46. One must have a licence to possess any firearms in South

Australia and that licence must be in respect of the class of firearm

one wishes to possess. The Police are legally responsible to licence

all people who meet the requirement: of the Act. Those requirements

are:-

(a) over the age of 15 years.

(b) that he is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

i.e. no history of mental disorder etc.

47. The applicant is required to pass a written examination in

the rudiments of firearms safety. The licence is only applicable to

the type of firearm:-

Class “A” – air rifle, air gun, .22 calibre rifle.

 

Class “B” – shot gun.

Class “C” – pistol.

Class “D” – all other firearms except dangerous weapons.

i.e. machine gun, gas pistol etc.”. (17)

______________________________________________________________________

(16) ibid., n.16.

(17) The South Australian Firearms Act 1977. Regulation 7.

– 12 –

 

 

48. Prior to 1977 there were no firearms legislation controlling

firearm use or possession at all except for pistols. Items like

silencers were legal, in fact one of the influencing reasons for the

decisions by the heads of the Australian Police Federation to seek

uniformity throughout Australia in relation to firearms law was a

liberal interpretation of firearms importing laws taken by several

South Australian Gun Dealers. During a drug raid in 1979 a number of

“UZI” style machine guns were located, no charges could be levelled

at the dealer owing to the looseness of the then firearms law. The

1975 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey found that there were

approximately 120,900 firearms in South Australia. No doubt a

percentage of those firearms are owned or controlled by criminals.

(18)

Registration

49. Apart from its licensing and owners scheme South Australia

also maintains a distinct scheme of firearms registration. It is an

offence to possess any firearm that has not been registered as soon

as ‘reasonably practicable’ but no more than 14 days after

acquisition of it. Prior to acquiring a firearm the applicant must

have a shooters licence to suit the category of firearm to be

purchased. (19)

Revocation of Licence

50. Where the police believe that a person is no longer fit and

proper to be licensed they may apply to the Firearms Consultative

Committee to revoke the persons firearms licences. Upon notice of

his licence being revoked a person must hand it in to the police

immediately.

Firearms Consultative Committee

51. The Firearms Consultative Committee is comprised of a

Chairman, generally an Assistant Commissioner of Police, a lawyer and

a representative of the shooting fraternity. The panel is appointed

annually by the Government. In addition the Chief Commissioner of

Police who by law is also the Firearms Registrar personally passes

judgement on every decision that is adverse against a persons

firearms licence in South Australia. The author of Firearms Laws in

Australia, J. David Fine comments in his book:-

“Whilst this structure may result in the appearance of partiality

towards police decisions which the Committee is charged to

review the author is informed that in 7 years of the Committee’s

operations no complaints have been raised on this ground”. (20)

______________________________________________________________________

(18) Australian Bureau of Statistics. op. cit.

(19) Firearm Law in Australia. op. cir., p.49.

(20) Firearm Law in Australia. op. cit., p.48.

– 13 –

Comment

51. South Australian Firearms Legislation is similar to Victorian

Legislation in that the police control the legislation and

registration procedures. As mentioned in paragraph 48, prior to 1977

the Firearms laws in South Australia were very loose and permitted

almost unlimited ownership of firearms. The new Act declared in 1977

however rectified this situation. At the time of writing this report

however moves are being made to abandon registration. This will be

discussed later on in the paper.

NORTHERN TERRITORY LEGISLATION

Licensing

52. The Northern Territory has enjoyed a form of Firearms control

since the early 1950’s. At present the firearms legislation is found

in the Northern Territory Firearms Act, 1979. Licensing of persons

who own firearms and registration of those firearms is employed by

he Act.

53. A licence will only be issued to an applicant if he is of or

above the age of 18 years and satisfies the Commissioner of the

following requirements:-

(a) he is a fit and proper person to possess, a firearm.

(b) that he has an adequate knowledge of firearm safety laws.

(c) that he has not been convicted of a firearm related offence

in the Territory or any other State of Australia.

 

(d) that he has an adequate knowledge of the Territory Firearm

Laws. (21)

54. Should he wish to obtain Class C & D licence (pistol and

machine gun type) he must be prepared to show cause. Character

checks are conducted as to the suitability of the applicant.

55. The applicant must undergo a written test and answer nine out

of the ten questions correctly. The licence when issued is issued for

a minimum of three years and is endorsed with the type, calibre and

make and serial number of the firearm.

_____________________________________________________________________

(21) Firearm Laws in Australia. op. cit., p. 116

– 14 –

Registration

56. All firearms must be registered and firearm registration

certificates can only be issued by the police to the owners of

weapons, proof of ownership must be produced at the time of ownership.

One is obliged to register firearms with the police within 14 days of

taking possession of them. The registration is valid until the

firearm is either lost, stolen or sold. Registration will also lapse

if the firearm alters in a manner that affects its safety or

qualification for that particular class.

Comment

57. The Northern Territory has one of the oldest firearms control

legislations in Australia. In 1981 it was updated and made to

conform more with the other states of Australia. Interestingly

enough for all its firearm controls it still has largest pro-rata

firearm incidents in Australia. For example in 1981 there were six

homicides by firearms in each million people in Australia, in the

Northern Territory on the same basis there were 49 Homicides per

million people. Similarly in 1981 for each 2,531 guns in the

Territory there was one gun related homicide, throughout Australia

there was one such death for each 28,090 guns.(22)

WEST AUSTRALIAN LEGISLATION

Licensing Procedure

58. In order to own or possess a firearm in West Australia the

applicant must be:-

(a) over 16 years of age and of good character.

(b) possess a good reason for wanting a firearm.

(c) not be unfit to hold a licence. (23)

59. The applicant must take his application form to the Police

Station nearest his home and he must pass a written test on firearms

safety and firearms law. The Police conduct the test and are

responsible for the issue of any licence or refusal to do so. Upon

being refused the applicant may appeal to the local Magistrates

Court.

______________________________________________________________________

(22) Firearms Control. op. cit., P.9.

(23) West Australian Firearm Act 1973.

– 15 –

Registration

60. Registration as it exists in Victoria and other States does

not apply here. On each firearm holders licence is endorsed the make

and calibre of the firearms he owns, this endorsement is made at the

time of the granting of the licence or at a later date when he

purchases the firearm. The applicant cannot purchase or buy that

calibre of firearm unless he has the endorsement on his licence.

Individual serial numbers are not indexed and cross referenced to each

firearm licensee. Police are the sole agency responsible for this

task.

61. There is no restriction on the number of firearms one may have

and upon purchasing a further firearm it is a simple matter to have

ones licence endorsed by the local police.

62. It is illegal to sell a firearm to persons other than a

licensed gun dealer or a person who is licensed to possess that

particular brand and calibre firearm.

Comment

63. West Australian firearm laws are generally thought to be the

most stringent in Australia, particularly in relation to licensing of

individuals and control of the type of firearms they can possess.

They do not have firearms registration laws which presently exist in

most States of Australia, nor do they see the need to do so in the

future.

TASMANIAN LEGISLATION

Firearms Control

64. The Tasmanian Legislation is directed exclusively at the

ownership and possession of handguns. It does not in any way

restrict or regulate the possession of long arms. Police control the

issuing of licences in relation to pistols and gun dealers, they do

not have any control over long arms at all. In fact a teenager of 16

years or over can buy a long arm of any description without any form

of licensing or instruction of its safe use. It has been publicly

quoted that Tasmania’s gun laws were so lax that mainland criminals

visited the state for express purpose of buying weapons for use in

interstate hold-ups, this being facilitated by the lack of

identification required when purchasing firearms and the lack of

firearm registration. (24)

______________________________________________________________________

(24) Melbourne Sun, 8th March, 1979.

– 16 –

65. Surveys conducted in Tasmania in 1977 indicate that certain

areas of the community wanted tighter firearms control. The then

Attorney-General Mr. Miller promised at the time that the Government

would look into the matter. Nothing has been done since that time

except for a general increase in penalty for offences involving

firearms. There are no further facts or figures since 1977 to

indicate any requirement for change to their firearm laws. In a

survey conducted by Professor Harding of the University of New South

Wales 85 per cent of firearm owners in Tasmania gave sport as their

principle reason for owning a firearm. (25)

A.C.T. LEGISLATION

Firearms Legislation

66. The Firearms Laws in the Australian Capital Territory are

controlled by the Gun Licence Ordinance of 1937. It is an offence to

possess any firearm including an air rifle in the A.C.T. without a

licence to possess one. The ordinance requires that applicants to be

of at Least 16 years of age. There are no other qualifications

required. Any type of firearm other than a pistol may be obtained.

The ordinance does provide however, that no licence can be issued

before the police are made aware of the persons application and no

licence can be issued if the police object.

Applications for Firearm Licence

67. The A.C.T. is unique in that it is the only State or Territory

in Australia that provides for non police control of firearms

ownership. The police have a right of ‘veto’ if the applicant, has a

criminal record or is mentally unsound. All firearms licences in the

A.C.T. are issued for one year and must be then renewed. The

Registrar of gun licences in Canberra is the official Government body

to control firearms and he may if he wishes revoke any persons licence

at any time upon conviction by that person of a criminal offence in

the A.C.T. or elsewhere. (26)

Registration

68. Whilst individual registration does not exist as such, a

form of firearm registration exists in that each gun owner must be

licenced and that each licence entitles him to carry a firearm of the

class described on the licence. There is no restriction on the number

of firearms that each person may own. (27)

_____________________________________________________________________

(25) Hobart Mercury, August 13th, 1977.

(26) National Times, May 30th, 1977.

(27) Firearms Laws In Australia. op. cit., p. 103.

– 17 –

UNITED KINGDOM LEGISLATION

Firearm Laws

69. Ownership and the registration of firearms in the United

Kingdom are controlled by the Firearms Act 1968. Forms of

registration and licensing have existed in the United Kingdom since

the end of World War One. The system used there varies greatly from

most Australian States, for example there are only two firearm

classifications which are:-

(a) pistols and rifles.

(b) shotguns.

70. Shotguns are not liable for individual registration. A

registration fee must be paid if you own one but there is no need to

record the brand name and serial number of each gun. Rifles and hand

guns are grouped together but must be individually registered.

Police Involvement

71. As in Australia the Police are responsible in the United

Kingdom for the issue of firearms certificates. Conditions of issue

are however much more stringent than say in Victoria. Requirements

for a firearm certificate are:-

(a) sufficient reason to require a firearm.

(b) safe storage area for firearm.

(C) specify where the firearm and ammunition will be when not

in use.

(d) be of good character. (28)

72. In addition to having a check of criminal records made by

police the applicant may have to show some form of corroboration of

the facts contained on his application form. It is not unusual for

police to want to inspect where the firearm will be stored. On this

point alone a lot of people are discouraged from applying for

ownership of firearms.

______________________________________________________________________

(28) Current Firearms Controls op. cit., p. 203.

– 18 –

 

73. Unless the applicant is known personally to police enquiries

into his background will be made. Enquiries will be made with police

from areas that he frequents and generally an Inspector will handle

the application personally. Other factors that may influence the

police are his family and close associates demeanour. Should for

example there be a relative or close friend residing in the same

premises as the applicant and that person has a prior conviction for

violence or a history of drunkeness then the chances are that the

application will be turned down. The applicant is informed of this

fact and may appeal to a Court of Quarter Sessions (before a Judge)

and argue his point.

74. As a general rule the firearms laws of the United Kingdom are

interpreted much more stringently than those of the various

Australian States. The only instance where issue of a firearm is

relaxed is ownership of a shotgun. As mentioned earlier shotguns are

not required to be registered individually but the owner must be

licensed, this is generally only a matter of paying the required fee.

Effectiveness of Policing

75. It is difficult to gauge in this particular situation whether

or not the strict registration and licence procedures have

effectively restrained the number of firearm related offences that

have occurred in the United Kingdom. The principle of tight gun

control is to stop the flow of guns to the criminal element. It was

the intention of the Government in 1973 to introduce individual

registration of shotguns, however the firearm enthusiasts protested

vigourously and the legislation halted. Since that period the

Government has seen fit to increase the price of firearm registration

and shotgun licensing, in effect the fee has increased 1,600 % in the

last 14 years. See Appendix “G”.. (29)

76. By increasing the prices of firearm registration and the

licensing of shotgun owners in the manner that they have it would

appear that a large volume of people have either sold off their

firearms or declined to renew their registrations and licences. The

total number of firearms in England and Wales in 1969 was 209,946,.

in 1968 the fees were 5s. upon purchase and 2s.d. upon renewal, it was

mooted that in 1982 the price would be £41 for purchase and £31 for

renewal. See Appendix “G”‘. It is this very factor of steep price

rises that has caused firearm enthusiasts to become militant on the

matter of registration..

77. In 1968 the number of firearms registered in England and Wales

was estimated at 209,946. At this time the fee to register a gun was

very cheap. The Government of the day moved to have shotguns made the

subject of registration also. The firearms fraternity in the U.K.

argued strongly against such a move. They were successful and the

shotgun issue was dropped, however as a trade off the Government

increased the price of registration and renewal. Since that time the

price of registering a firearm has gone from 5s ($0.50 -Australian)to

£25.00s ($50.00 – Australian).

_____________________________________________________________________

(29) Handgunner, September – October, 1982. British publication.

– 19 –

78. By way of reaction to the price increase in registration it

has now been determined that in 1982 there are 51,000 less firearm

registrations and the figure is decreasing a further 4,000 each year.

No enquiry has been held to determine whether or not the owners have

actually sold their firearms because of the expensive registration

fees or they have just not bothered to renew then each year. In

effect in 1982 fees had increased by 130 % and registrations were

down by 24%. (30) See Appendix “G”.

Renewal of Registration

79. In Victoria the registration fee is paid once and that

suffices for as long as the present owner retains possession of the

firearm, the same system is utilised in all of the other states of

Australia. Not so in the United Kingdom, in fact every year the

firearm is subject to registration renewal and the local police are

responsible for visiting the owner at his home to check that the same

condition under which the licence or registration was granted still

applies. This may include:-

(a) does the holder still own the firearm.

(b) are his storage facilities still adequate.

(C) has he been convicted of any offences in the past year.

(d) are his reasons for possessing the firearm still valid.

Enquiries will be made with his local gun club to ensure

that he is still an active member of the club.

(e) inspection of the amount of ammunition fired by the

applicant. If little use has been made of the gun he may be

invited to sell the weapon or he may have difficulty in

having the registration renewed.

NEW ZEALAND REGISTRATION

Firearm Registration

80. In 1920 the First World War had just finished with many

servicemen bringing pistols and automatic firearms back into the

country. They were freely available at stores. Revolution had

occurred in Russia and there was fear that large scale industrial

demonstrations could occur in New Zealand. Historically the Arms Act

was introduced and registration of all firearms including shotguns

was introduced in an effort to control the illegal use of firearms.

_____________________________________________________________________

(30) Current Firearms Controls. op. cit., p. 212.

– 20 –

81. The police were given the responsibility to handle the

registration and within 2 years there were over 20,000 firearms on

file. By 1928 the sheer volume of work in registering all of the

firearms was proving difficult for the police, at one stage there were

more firearms on record than there were inhabitants of New Zealand.

In 1929 a Bill was introduced to Government to dispense with the

registration of rifles and shotguns, the Bill was defeated. In 1930 a

compromise was reached and shotguns were dropped from the registration

list. (31)

82. Initially it was argued that firearm registration was

effective in keeping track of firearm movements and a way in which

criminals could be located. However the number of firearms on record

made indexing the system manually, time consuming and often mistakes

were made. Some-criminals were traced via the use of the firearms

registrations, however the number is minimal and in 1968 the Police

Department decided to put all of its records onto the National

computer at Wanganui. This idea failed when it was found that the

records were so out of date that it was impracticable.

83. To counter this problem it was decided to have every firearm

owner call in to their local Police station with their firearm so an

inspection could be made and accurate descriptions could be placed

into the computer. At this stage there were 350,000 firearm owners

and over 500,000 firearms with no estimate of the number of shotguns.

Those who could not call into the Police Station would have to be

visited. Eleven years later in 1979 it was found that some Police

Districts had still not completed their enquiries.

Board of Enquiry

84. A Government Board of Enquiry was convened and the subject of

the enquiry; of Firearm Registration reviewed At the completion the

results were made public and recommendations put to the Government.

they were:-

(a) a personal check of all firearm owners from 1968-73 could

not be finished.

(b) as a result of the check the accuracy of the index was in

doubt.

(c) to register rifles and shotguns as well would mean

correcting all existing records.

(d) periodic renewal of all records would be necessary.

(e) in light of the fact that the last check took eleven

years and was still uncompleted it would place a massive

burden on the police that was unjustified. (32)

_________________________________________________________________

(31) Project Foresight. New Zealand Government Publication, 1985. p. 3

(32) Project Foresight. op. cit., p. 7.

 

– 21 –

85. Consequently it was decided to abandon registration and

introduce licensing of the person. Reasons why this was more

favourable are:-

(a) police costs will be reduced.

(b) very little use of the index and system indicated that it

did not assist in tracking down criminals.

(c) police will have immediate access to records on who is

licensed to own a firearm.

(d) allow recreational shooters to pursue their sport without

undue restrictions.

(e) reduce police time spent on maintaining records.

 

(f) allow police to spend more time in the community. (33)

Licensing Procedures for Firearm Owners

86. In 1983 the New Zealand Government passed a new and much

revised Arms Act that removed many of the anomalies existing in

previous legislation. Regarded by many as being the most enlightened

and forward thinking firearms legislation in the Western world this

century the Arms Act introduced some significant changes. Foremost

amongst these is the discarding of the requirement that all firearms

had to be registered with the police. Whilst the police still play a

major role in the new Act certain changes have taken place:-

(a) the applicant is required to obtain an-application form from

the police station and detail background information on

himself and provide the police with the names of two

referees. Both these persons will be asked if the applicant

is a fit and proper person-to own a firearm.

(b) the police will provide the applicant with a book on firearm

safety. The applicant will be advised to study the book.

(c) the police will inform you of a date to attend the New

Zealand Mountain Safety Council lecture in the area. At the

completion of the lecture which takes 2 hours the applicant

will be asked questions from the lecture and the book he was

given earlier. A written test will also be given. See

Appendixes “H” & Hill.

(d) on successful completion of the exam the New Zealand Mountain

Safety Council Officer will give the applicant a certificate

which he can resent at the police Station. Provided that all

the other requirements have been met the police will issue

the applicant with a Firearms licence that is valid for

life.

______________________________________________________________________

(33) Project Foresight. op. cit., p.8.

– 22 –

(e) the licence allows the holder to possess rifles and

shotguns of any calibre and to buy, sell or do whatever he

wishes with firearms. The minimum age for such a licence

is 16 years. (34)

Tables of Comparisons

87. A table of Legislative Comparison is indicated at Appendix “J”.

INTERVIEWS AND OPINIONS

Sports Shooting Association

88. Members of the Sports Shooting Association of Victoria hold

strong views in relation to firearms control and firearms

registration. As part of my research I interviewed the Secretary of

the organization Mr. Ted Clarke, a man with over 40 years experience

in firearm sport and administration, the following points were

discussed:-

(a) members of the Sports Shooting Association were of the

view that the police must play a vital role in the

conduct of the firearms legislation and registration as

they have control over criminal records and it was not in

the community interest to see undesireable people licensed

to possess firearms.

(b) almost all members of the organization, the largest in

Australia were of the belief that registration served no

purpose other than to serve a means of restricting firearm

owners amongst the population and that it would later

serve as form of taxation. Members of the Victorian

Branch were concerned that the left wing elements of the

labour party were practising marxist doctrines in

attempting to curb the number of firearms amongst the

community.

(c) most members believe that shooters licences could be

issued by a non police organization with the police

retaining a right to veto any person found to be found to

be undesireable.

(d) in the past inconsistent view points in relation to

firearms control by issuing officers had fueled a lot of

ill feelings between some police members and members of

the shooting fraternity. It was not unusual apparently

for an applicant to be refused a firearm licence in one

suburb simply because of the Firearm Inspectors personal

view point and dislike of civilians possessing firearms,

a simple change of address to an area where a more liberal

Inspector worked usually reversed the decision.

______________________________________________________________________

(34) The New Zealand Firearm Handbook, 1985 Edition, New Zealand

Mountain Safety Council, Wellington, New Zealand.

– 23 –

(e) firearms officers often in the past had imposed limits on the

number of firearms one could possess without there being any

basis at law for the imposition of such limits. Applicants

were often forced to go to court and pay out money for

Solicitors etc. on the personal whim of a policeman.

(f) almost without exception members of the Association and allied

shooting clubs were of the opinion that registration was an

invasion of civil liberties and as such was not a viable

proposition. The main basis of this belief was that

registration will only reflect the names of the honest people

who are prepared to submit their details to the Registrar and

that the criminals, who are more likely to transgress the

firearm laws would not bother. When all things were to

be taken into account it was for this very reason that

registration was introduced.

(g) in the United Kingdom firearms registration fees were now at

exorbitant prices and the members here could see that in time

the Government may see fit to bring our own fees into line

with those in the United Kingdom. It was also likely that an

annual fee for registration could be imposed as has been done

in the U.K.

Government Statute Draughtsman

89. In an effort to obtain different view points I also

interviewed the Victorian State Government Statute Draughtsman Mr.

Robert Emmersly. During the interview we discussed several aspects

of the initial legislation of which Emmersly had draughted, some of

these points are:-

(a) The objectives of the Firearms Act.

(i) protect the public from injury.

(ii) prevent damage to property from the misuse of firearms and

(iii) to minimise the effects of misuse of firearms.

(b) In reply to a question asking the effectiveness of registration

to date, Emmersly replied, “I’ve yet to see a study that adopts

the fact that registration is effective”. In relation to our

own registration policy an accurate conclusion could not

be-reached as the initial period will not be completed until

January 1987.

– 24 –

(c) On the issue of Police control of firearms legislation and

registration Emmersly was of the belief that whilst firearms

registration was actually carried out by civilians the

administration of the Registry and the legislation was best

carried out by police. He could not see any alternatives that

could be considered viable and was of the opinion that as

police controlled the criminal records and that nine out of

every ten firearms licence cancellations arose from police

observation or police initiated court action they were in fact

the obvious choice.

(d) The financial burden of firearms registration has been capably

met by the recent increase in the cost of shooters licences.

Initially to cover the cost of computerisation printing etc.

and other costs the estimate of one million dollars to set up

registration was made. This was based on the estimate of one

million firearms being present in Victoria. The ongoing costs

of registration were worked out at $8.30 per shooters licence

per year. As can be seen at this stage the cost of issuing

shooters licences and registration is cost effective in terms

of dollars and cents.

(e) In terms of cost effectiveness, objective wise it is too early

to determine whether or not registration is working in

Victoria. Although the Legislative Committee initially

envisaged over one million firearms would be registered

during the four year registration period, at best there can

only be 520,000 firearms registered by February 1987 if the

current trends continue.

(f) In reply to a question of the likelyhood of a price rise of

firearms registration Emmersly was of the belief that this

was most unlikely unless the Government saw it as an avenue of

creating indirect taxation.

CONCLUSIONS

Areas reviewed

90. In this paper I have confined my research to the laws relating to

firearm registration within Australia and two overseas countries,

Great Britain and New Zealand. I chose Great Britain and New Zealand

as they have similar lifestyles and political ideologies as Australia.

I have also briefly covered the history of firearms registration in

Victoria and New Zealand and researched the matter of the issue of

shooters licences in all Australian States, the United Kingdom-and

New Zealand.

– 25 –

91. When dealing with these two topics I also reviewed matters

arising from them, namely the role that police play in the issuing of

shooters licences, the administration of firearms registration and

legislation and in their absence could a civillian organization take

their place or in view of the number of firearms in the community can

it be successfully done at all.

Number of Firearms in Victoria

92. In order to establish whether or not registration of firearms

can adequately be undertaken it is necessary to determine how many

firearms there are in the state. To do this a monitoring system can

be set up to gauge the degree of effectiveness of registration. The

following authorities have made estimates based on their own

formulas:-

(a) Robert Brewer, Secretary of Firearm Traders Association,

estimates one million firearm and several hundred thousand

airguns etc. This estimate is derived from facts within his

own knowledge and the monthly customs importation sheets.

(b) Chief Inspector Brian Fennessy, the Registrar of Firearms for

the State of Victoria estimates that for every licensed

shooter there are 2.8 firearms within the state. It is

estimated that the 260,000 licensed shooters own

approximately 728,000 firearms. At this stage there are

460,000 firearms registered in the state with an estimate

that by the end of the first 4 year registration period in

February 1987, there will be approximately 520,000 firearms

registered.

(c) Robert Emmersly, State Government Statute Draughtsman

responsible for the legislation in relation to firearms

registration estimates one million firearms in the state.

(d) Mr. Ted Clarke, Secretary of the Shooting Sports Council of

Victoria estimates around 800,000 from facts within his own

knowledge and adds that with the inclusion of airguns and air

rifles onto the definition of firearms there could well be in

excess of one million.

93. It would appear that an estimate of the number of guns within

the community cannot be made with any great degree of accuracy. As a

result of my own investigations and research I believe the figure of

one million firearms to be a fair assessment. Even allowing for an

error factor of 20% which would reduce my estimate to a minimum of

800,000 firearms it is evident that many people are either not

registering their firearms or are only registering some of their

firearms.

94. Although the initial 4 years allowing for firearm registration

in Victoria has not yet been completed the number of firearms

estimated on current trends indicates a maximum of 520,000. This

figure is well short of the discounted estimate of 800,000. Using

those figures it appears that in February 1987 there will be 280,000.

unaccounted for firearms within the State.

– 26 –

Registration of Firearms, “Is it a Police Responsibility?”

95. If we are to accept that Registration is here to stay and will

become an integral part of our firearms control legislation then the

question of who is to be the organization responsible for the control

of registration must be considered.

Registrar

96. Presently the Victoria Police have a Registrar and Deputy

Registrar of Firearms with a staff of 60 public servants who are

engaged in the actual physical task of firearm registration.

Police Role

97. The police role in carrying out the registration is minimal,

the role of the Registrar and his Deputy is that of a legally

appointed guardian acting on behalf of the Government to ensure that

the provisions of registration as set down by the Firearms Act is

complied with. The police also have the legal authority to be able

to prosecute for any breach of the Firearms Law.

98. A comparison to other states in Australia regarding firearm

control legislation indicates that the police as a rule are preferred

to be the responsible body for firearms control.

Can the task of Registration be effectively carried out

99. The research carried out in relation to the viability of

firearm registration strongly indicates that the exercise is costly,

inaccurate and ineffective. This is borne out by the fact that it

has been abandoned in such places as New Zealand and in very recent

times about to be abandoned in South Australia. One of foremost

authorities on British Firearms Legislation the former Chief

Inspector Colin Greenwood had this to say in relation to

registration:-

“Careful examination of the evidence available suggests therefore

Legislation has failed to bring under control substantial

numbers of firearms and that it certainly cannot be claimed that

strict controls have reduced the number of firearms in crime.

On the basis of these facts it might be argued that firearms

registration has little effect and don’t justify the amount

of-police time involved. (35)

____________________________________________________________________

(35) Firearms Control. op-. cit., p. 245.

– 27 –

100. Although firearms registration in most Australian States

is a fairly recent innovation it would appear that already some

states are preparing to repeal legislation. Registration has only

been in operation in South Australia for 5 years but a recent (April

1986) investigation into the viability of the scheme had this to

say:-

“If the objective of registration of firearm is to determine

their numbers, who uses them and where they are (even if there

is another objective which has reasonable substance to it) the

apparent inaccuracy of the existing system of registration and

its cost indicate that the objective cannot be achieved. (36)

Registration & Administration, Police Role?

101. Research indicates with the exception of the Australian

Capitol Territory the police are the body responsible for the

registering of firearms and the licensing of person to own or use

those firearms in every state and territory of Australia. It would

appear that, there is little or no form of protest by members of the

shooting fraternities or the public with the present system.

102. This has not always been so, in the past in Victoria the

issue of shooters licences by the police created ill feeling between

some of the shooting clubs and certain police members. This was

bought about by the attitudes of some inspectors towards licensing

people to possess high powered rifles and what are now classed as

category C weapons. The advent of the Firearms Consultative

Committee and a more uniform and liberal approach towards the granting

of licences has eased what previously had been an unpleasant

situation.

103. The notable acceptations to police being responsible for

licensing and registration is the Australian Capitol Territory and

New Zealand. In both cases external bodies are responsible for the

licensing of applicants whilst the police maintain their traditional

role of checking the character of the applicant. New Zealand

authorities take the matter further and then they remove the need to

register firearms at all.

104. This system of civilian responsibility for firearms

control appears to operate effectively on the surface. However a

close look behind the scenes indicates that police still have the

overall responsibility for actual firearms control and the right to

veto any person thought to be unfit to possess a firearm.

____________________________________________________________________

(36) Shooters Journal, April 1986. p. 3.

– 28 –

105. There is little doubt that the police are in the best

position to be used in the administration of the Firearms Act and the

registration of firearms. By their constant involvement with the

public and the community they are able to monitor firearms, abuse and

community trends in relation to the use of firearms. They are also in

a position to be able to give feed back to the Firearms Registrar and

the Firearms Consultative Committee if required.

106. In recent times members of the shooting fraternities have

put forward the motion that they should have the role of looking

after their own industry, certainly members of the Victorian Shooters

Association and the Victorian Firearms Traders have supported this

motion. To add impetus to their argument they cite the current set

up in New Zealand whereby the police maintain a background role and

allow the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council to conduct the issue of

licences.

Lack of Firearms Safety Tests in Victoria

107. Research into the subject of firearms control and

registration brings to the forefront the lack of firearm safety tests

in Victoria. Whilst other states of Australia and New Zealand

conduct safety tests on applicants for shooters licences we in

Victoria seem to shy away from it in favour of what appears to be a

pointless exercise in the registration of firearms.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Proposed Amendments

108. On research into the viability of firearms registration

and the licensing-of people to use firearms I find that there are

several areas requiring attention. My recommendations are as

follows:-

(a) The initial period of 4 years in which firearm registration

was to be phased in is not yet expired. The

ineffectiveness of the actual registration is already

proving its counter productiveness. I therefore recommend

that firearm registration be abandoned forthwith as there

are hundreds of thousands of firearms that will not be

registered.

(b) In the event of my recommendation to abandon registration

not being accepted I believe that the present

administrative arrangement of two senior police officials

maintaining control and supervising a large pool of public

service staff be continued in its present form.

– 29 –

(c) I also believe firearms safety testing in the form of

written tests should be implemented in Victoria as soon as

possible. The New Zealand system could be used as a model.

(d) The present staff involved in firearm registration or part

thereof is more than capable of administering firearms

safety testing in a similar manner to that which is

performed,— in New Zealand. Police would retain their

right to veto any person found to be unsuitable.

(e) That the police remain the administrators of the Firearms

Act in matters of policy and control but that where possible

public servants perform clerical roles.

(f) I do not see any direct benefit to be obtained by allowing

external agencies such as the Victoria Shooters Council to

be the Governing body on matters pertaining to firearms

control because of their vested interests.

Political Motives

109. The main purpose of this paper has been to examine the

viability of firearms registration and the control of the licensing of

people to use and possess firearms. I have read many articles on the

matters and interviewed several people from both sides of the fence.

Without meaning to pre-empt some of the areas under examination I find

conclusively that firearms registration is an exercise in futility. I

believe that the present registration system is a Political tool that

was implemented in order to fulfill an election promise.

Education

110. With the high rate of accidents that occur with firearms mainly

as a result of ignorance on behalf of the owner or user I believe that

it is paramount that a system of public awareness or education be

given to firearm owners and that there can be no better time than

right at the start before a person is elegible to possess a firearm.

I do not believe that tighter firearms control will reduce the number

of firearm accidents but that a better educated user will.

Police Control

111. There can be no doubt that the control of firearms should belong

to a disciplined organization with Government affiliations. The

police are in the best position to monitor activities within the

community and on that basis are the people best suited to control and

administer the Act.

– 30 –

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