Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Reforms take aim at firearms safety

The WA Government is proposing new firearms legislation that would see the number of guns an individual can own be restricted in line with new licence categories.

The Government says the introduction of firearm limits will help remove up to 13,000 guns from the WA community, despite restrictions having no impact on most licence holders.

The firearm limits will be linked to new licence types, which Premier Roger Cook says have been tailored to reflect the specific needs of different firearm owners.

“The proposed changes will make WA a safer place and willmodernise the way police record, monitor and enforce our firearm laws,” said the Premier.

“This is the largest overhaul of firearm laws in the State’s history.

“WA is the last jurisdiction to rewrite its firearm legislation since the Port Arthur massacre.

“Unfortunately, there have been a number of high-profile gun incidents during recent years. These examples of the unlawful use of firearms highlight the need for this important reform.

Under the proposed new legislation, primary producers and firearm club/competition members can license up to 10 firearms, while recreational shooters will be permitted to own a maximum of no more than five.

Competitive shooters aspiring to represent the State at a national or international level can apply to the regulator for additional numbers, said Premier Cook.

“The reforms strike a balance between legitimate, responsible gun ownership and enhanced public safety,” he said.

Over the past five years, on average one firearm has been stolen in WA every day. More onerous controls on storage will dramatically reduce the likelihood of thefts, said Police Minister, Paul Papalia.

“Public safety is paramount, and that has been the key consideration when drafting the proposed legislation,” said Mr Papalia.

“If there are fewer firearms in the community, there are fewer opportunities for them to be used illegally.

“Since 2009, WA’s firearm numbers have increased 65% to more than 360,000.

“New firearm limits will only impact around 5% of individual licence holders but the changes will remove over 10,000 firearms from the community.”

To limit the financial impact to current licence holders, the WA Government will fund a voluntary firearm buyback scheme, with further details to be released in the new year.

Digital licences, supported by an online portal and significantly upgraded IT system, will also be implemented.

Specialist injury prevention and recovery organisation, Injury Matters, is backing the proposed firearms reforms.

Injury Matters spokesperson, Rachel Meade says improved licencing systems, storage requirements and licencing limitations will boost the safety of the Western Australian community and help prevent firearms from falling into the hands of people who mean to do harm.

“Firearms ownership is a privilege, the changes being made in WA promote public safety as the top priority,” said Ms Meadde.

“Injury Matters looks forward to reviewing further details of the legislation but supports the WA Government’s move towards compliance with the National Firearms Agreement (NFA).”

The NFA outlines the minimum requirements that jurisdictions must comply with and clearly states additional regulations can be adopted.

“Injury Matters commend the McGowan and now Cook Government in their leadership to prevent unnecessary serious injury and death by assault and self-harm from firearms,” she said.

A recent study by Injury Matters found that one-quarter of Western Australians are concerned about firearm-related violence.

A Firearms Bill Consultation Paper will be released for public review and comment tomorrow. Feedback on the proposed laws can be submitted via the WA Police website by November 14.

All comments will be considered prior to the Bill being entered into Parliament early next year.

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