"IF the Police Minister was serious about reducing the risk of firearms to the community, he would ban anyone who is not a primary producer or a competition shooter from owning a firearm."
That's the opinion of WAFarmers chief executive Trevor Whittington who says for Police Minister Paul Papalia to achieve his desired outcome of reducing the number of firearms and their risk to the WA community, he would need to target recreational shooters, who form the majority of WA's 89,000 licensed firearm owners.
Following the backlash from the government's gun reform proposals earlier this year, mainly due to a lack of consultation with key industry stakeholders, Mr Whittington told Farm Weekly the government wasn't willing to "take a hard line" to achieve its policy outcomes.
"The one thing we know the minister wants is for there to be less guns in the community, which is fine, and to reduce the risk of firearms to the community," Mr Whittington said.
"But to have any material impact he would have to go a lot further than he is and he would have to ban firearm ownership in the recreational shooting community - that would cull out at least 70,000 of the State's 90,000 licensed firearms owners overnight, but he's not willing to do that."
Mr Whittington said reducing the risk of firearms to the community wasn't a matter of having less guns per person, but rather a matter of less people having guns.
"The brutal reality is that when you compare a place like the United States to Japan - the US has lots of gun deaths, about 30,000 a year, while Japan has very few," Mr Whittington said.
"There are a few cultural differences but the main one is that Japan has serious restrictions on firearms."
While Mr Whittington acknowledged the recreational shooting community would be upset by his stance, he said the majority of WAFarmers' members weren't recreational shooters.
"When it comes down to it, farmers need firearms for their job and recreational shooters do not," he said.
"The recreational community is annoyed at us because they want us to burn our political capital looking after them, but the bottom line is I'm not getting phone calls from my members saying I need more than 10 guns (the number of firearms proposed for a potential primary producers firearm licence)."
Established in April, WAFarmers is part of the Primary Producers Firearms Advisory Board, formed to provide advice and feedback on the State's firearm policy specific to farmers, growers and pastoralists.
Chaired by Mr Papalia, the board also includes representatives from the Pastoralists and Graziers' Association of WA, Vegetables WA, the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association and Wines of WA and meets on a monthly basis.
According to a government spokesperson, meetings are scheduled to continue until at least the end of the year.Formed last month in direct response to the government's rewrite of the WA Firearms Act (1973), a spokesperson from the Western Australian Firearms Community Alliance (WAFCA) said the group was still in the process of trying to confirm their own meeting with the minister at the time of writing.
With its members including the Sporting Shooters Association of WA (SSAA) and the Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA), spokesman Paul Fitzgerald said Mr Papalia was yet to engage in meaningful consultation with WA's broader community of firearm owners.
"These are just more attempts by the minister to silo the various firearm groups and implement the divide and conquer strategy," Mr Fitzgerald said.
"SSAA and a handful of the other ballistic sporting organisations have had a number of meetings, about 30 minutes long with the minister where they have been loosely informed about what some of the contentions are - but there's been no engagement as such, to try and work through the framework of the redrafting of the act."
Mr Fitzgerald said, anecdotally, less than 10 per cent of the State's firearm licences were connected to primary producers and that WA farmers formed the smallest cohort of WA's licensed firearm owners.
"Through the formation of the Farmers Advisory Board, the minister has segregated a group which has the least involvement because he is trying to turn it into a rural issue," Mr Fitzgerald said.
He labelled the statements by Mr Whittington around the State's recreational shooters as "inflammatory and uneducated", saying the WAFarmers chief had no connection to the recreational shooting community and was fundamentally "doing the bidding of the minister".
"He has taken the bait from the minister who is trying to silo one of the largest, most diverse sections of the WA community with 90,000 people, who are all deemed to be fit and proper persons and have a genuine reason and need to own a firearm," Mr Fitzgerald said.
"These are not firearms that have been obtained through disingenuous means - they've all satisfied the requirements of the legislation and they're all secured."
Mr Fitzgerald said WAFCA wanted to stand side by side with primary producers and the WA firearm community to seek common sense reform of the WA Firearm Act.
The State government created the Primary Producers Firearms Advisory Board last month to provide feedback on the overhaul of WA's gun laws and represent the best interests of WA's farmers, growers and pastoralists.
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