Firearm’s Law Insanity- Simon Munslow


Firearm’s Law Insanity- Simon Munslow


Simon Munslow is a Lawyer with 26 years post admission experience in the areas of Family Law, Criminal law and Administrative law, and who practices extensively in that area that can be loosely described as ‘Firearms law’.  He has been a keen shooter for forty five years. He may be contacted on 02 6299 9690, email:


Parliamentary insanity regarding gun laws did not end in 1996.  Here are two prime examples of Parliamentary madness from the current sitting in NSW, sadly one is nothing more than an own goal shot by Robert Borsak MLC.


More Problems For Gun Shops = Less Gun Shops= Less Shooters.

The Firearms Amendment (Ammunition Control) Bill 2012 (‘the ammunition amendment) which passed is an amending Act rather optimistically intends to starve members of outlaw gangs of ammunition,


I say optimistically, because a logical mind would think ‘outlaws’ (which I understand means they do not respect the law) who we are told import drugs, firearms and possibly people while waging warfare on our streets would simply slip a pallet of 9 mill into their next container of illegal imports that are to cross our porous borders.  After all, we only check one pallet in every hundred although to be fair Customs do say they apply ‘intelligence’ in deciding which pallet to open.


Turning to the specifics of the ammunition amendment, it amends the Firearms Act to stop a firearms dealer from selling ammunition to a licensed shooter unless the dealer has sighted a registration certificate or permit to acquire a firearm,  that establishes that the shooter has a firearm that the ammunition will fit.


This of course raises problem one.  Currently NSW Permit to Acquire does not stipulate a chambering merely a class of firearm.  The Registry do not know the chambering of the firearm being acquired under a Permit, until details of the purchase are sent to the Registry and a Registration certificate is issued by them several weeks after the purchase.


The Act obliges a dealer to keep a record of all sales and purchases of ammunition made by them, recording:


– The name and address of the buyer to whom the ammunition was sold:


 -The number on the buyer’s licence number or permit authorizing purchase.


In the case of purchases of ammunition, the name and address of the person from whom the ammunition is purchased and any other information prescribed in the regulations, must be recorded.


The Act does not impose a requirement that ammunition that has not been purchased be logged.  Dealers receive a considerable amount of ammunition either following or incidental to the disposal of a firearm or otherwise from the general community and many people who dispose of ammunition to dealers are not licensed and wish to dispose of ammunition anonymously.  A requirement that they provide details to dealers or surrender to the Police would encourage the dumping of unwanted ammunition in rubbish bins or similar, which is even less desirable.


Fortunately the amendment Act does not revise the definition of Ammunition to include components of ammunition, and the existing definition in s4 the Firearms Act 1996 remains. This defines ammunition as:


(a)  any article consisting of a cartridge case fitted with a primer and a projectile or

(b)  any article consisting of a cartridge case fitted with a primer and containing a propelling charge and a projectile, or

(c)   blank cartridges, air gun pellets, training cartridges or gas cartridges, or

(d)  any other article prescribed by the regulations of this definition.


As there is nothing in the Regulations defining components to be ammunition, shooters can still buy components used in the manufacture of ammunition simply by producing their licence.


This should be good news for the large number of shooters reliant on brass designed for one chambering  to create cases for another.


In conclusion , it can be anticipated that these amendments:


Will not effect crime, but that they will:


-Create a need to modify licences to include details on chamberings that firearms   owners own or create a need for the ongoing replacement of Registration Certificates.  Both options having cost implications for the registry and ultimately us.


-The carriage of registration certificates may increase theft as a result of shooters leaving registration certificates featuring their address in vehicles that are subsequently stolen (providing a shopping list for thieves). This is after all the reason current licences do not contain personal details of the licensee.


-Paperwork will swamp gun shops with the result that they will need more staff during busy periods like Saturday mornings.  The cost of this will increase the cost of ammunition, particularly in respect to transactions involving quantities of less than one case.  


Consequentially many shooters will therefore buy ammunition in bulk and thus have more ammunition on hand at home (where it is arguably more vulnerable to theft) or else divide it up amongst friends and associates, creating an illegal secondary market that will subvert the legislative intent.


COMMENT:  In his second reading speech, the Hon Michael Gallagher, Minister for Police and Emergency Services advised Parliament that ‘this bill does not seek to disadvantage those appropriately licensed individuals with genuine reasons for being granted a licence’.  With the greatest respect to Mr Gallagher, I believe that while this may not have been its intention, it shall, like most of the gun laws imposed since 1996, be its result.


This legislation appears to be little more than a knee jerk tightening of the gun laws imposed, I suspect, at the request of Police without undergoing any analysis of its likely efficiency or effectiveness by a government with little concept of how the current licensing regime works.


The second legislation that I wish to comment upon is the Crimes Amendment (Possession or Discharge of Firearms in Commission of Offences) Bill 2012 which I am saddened to say is a Shooters and Fishers Party initiative, as they are  a party who have otherwise done great things for shooters and fishers in NSW. 


The legislation seeks to apply an additional sentence of not less than that awarded for the primary offence plus an additional sentence of five years if a firearm is fired, to people convicted of certain types of offence with a firearm. 


The perpetrators of most of the offences listed are bank robbers, rapists and such like-really not very nice people, to my mind these people really deserve little more consideration than they provide their victims and I for one would not lose too much sleep to see them spend longer in gaol provided that my tax bill did not increase as a result of a need to accommodate and feed them.

 However, there are a number of difficulties with this legislation.


-Similar legislation overseas has not worked as a deterrent.  Criminals simply do not consider the tariff that they face before committing the crime.


-People need to be aware that this additional penalty will result over time in the need to build more gaols to accommodate a larger prisoner population.


-The Act is unfair in that the Judge will have all ready have considered the presence and use of a firearm as an aggravating factor when imposing a penalty for the primary offence, leading to a person being penalized multiple times for the same element of the offence.


-The potential penalty that a perpetrator may face could create a situation where, if they find themselves cornered or identified, the perpetrator may panic and kill potential witnesses to escape a conviction.


However, my major concern is that ‘good people’ occasionally get charged with common assault.  The most basic assault offence that just requires a person intentionally put a person in fear of injury.  This could apply to a person who goes beyond what is reasonably proportional when defending themselves.  Discharging a firearm to scare a goblin who you think is up to no good could result in this charge. 


Admittedly the bill only applies to the more serious common assaults and not the majority which are dealt with at Local Courts.  However, common assault is a table two offence, which gives Police the power to elect to send a matter to the District Court.


Police prosecutors have been instructed to take a hard line on firearms seriously and this capacity for them to elect for a matter to go ‘upstairs’ to a higher Court causes me some concern in that subject to the circumstances, it is not hard to see the person intimidating the goblin charged with an indictable offence.


This poor individual could be convicted of Common Assault by a District Court judge and be fined or given a non custodial sentence in respect to that, but find that the judge has no discretion and has to hand down a five year jail term because the firearm was fired.


If you think this type of situation is rare you are wrong.  Police have a strong view against people defending themselves in Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand and it is only the common sense of the Jury system and Courts that corrects the wrong of their action. This legislation seeks to remove that sort of discretion.


A defender of this legislation would say ah, but a person will not be liable of this section if they had the firearm for a lawful purpose or had a reasonable excuse.


Unfortunately the Police view is that the only circumstances where one is lawfully entitled to use a firearm are set out as reasons for ownership in the Firearms Act.   Self defence is expressly excluded as a reason for holding a firearms licence with the absurdity that, the few licences remaining in the hands of private security guards contain an endorsement to the effect that they cannot be used for the protection of persons, suggesting that the protection of money is more important than human life.


The second problem is that ‘reasonable excuse’ is vague, and here a Court will already have considered that a persons actions in defending themselves was not reasonable.


There appears to be an attitude amongst the Police that seems to be effected greatly by a sense of arrogance that they alone can control crime in the community and by a political agenda to disarm the community.  The attitude of the Police today is sadly that of prosecuting the victims and not the perpetrators and getting a politically correct statistical result in the process.   


There are too many incidents where people who have defended themselves have found themselves having to subsequently defend themselves in Court. Usually they are acquitted, though it takes them 2-3 years to clear their name and a few fall though the cracks and land in gaol.  It would be sad to see a person fall through the cracks and land a hefty gaol sentence.

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