Draft papers for the State's firearm reforms have revealed proposed restrictions for WA's licensed firearm owners, including a cap of 10 firearms for the new primary producers licence category.
As part of the ongoing consultation process to reform WA's Firearms Act 1973, the State's Police Minister Paul Papalia said more than 100 meetings had been held with multiple stakeholders and members of the firearm community since November 2021.
In the Firearms Bill Consultation Papers which were made public on Tuesday, the State government proposed a cap of five firearms for an individual recreational target or hunting licence and a cap of 10 for a club/competition licence holder.
If a person is authorised to hold both of these licences, the draft consultation bill allows for them to have an overall combined maximum of 10 firearms.
There was a point of difference for the State's primary producer licence category, with these licence holders able to have an overall combined maximum of 15 to 20 firearms, with the number dependent on the combination of licences held, as well as the provision that they can justify the need for the firearms.
A ministerial spokesperson said some of the State's pastoralists may also be eligible for a business licence, to potentially increase their maximum firearm cap.
Elite competition shooters, or those aspiring to represent the State at a national or international level, will also have the ability to apply for additional firearms in excess of the defined limits on their individual club/competition licence.
As part of the reforms, the State government announced that a voluntary buyback scheme was also being planned for licence holders, who will be required to dispose of their excess firearms under the changes being proposed.
Disposal of these firearms will need to be carried out through a licensed WA firearms dealer or voluntary surrender under amnesty, with the licence holder given the option to choose which firearms they dispose of to comply with the gun reforms.
Compulsory training and health assessments are also included in the proposed new Firearms Act and similar to heavy haulage truck and recreational pilot licence requirements, the health assessment will include a physical and mental health component.
Assessments will be required by anyone applying for a firearms licence and every five years thereafter, until 80 years of age.
Licence holders aged over 80 will be required to complete a health check annually.
The government announced that WA's gun laws overhaul will also include the implementation of digital licences which will be supported by an online portal and upgraded IT system.
Mr Papalia said the upgrades would assist WA police officers working on the frontline by allowing them to access licence holder details in real-time.
The WA community has one month to provide their feedback on the proposed laws, with submissions to be provided via the WA Police website by November 14.
Fewer firearms for a safer community?
Speaking at the recent Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) of WA convention, Mr Papalia said there had been a 65 per cent increase in WA's firearm numbers to 360,000 since 2009.
With the proposed caps set to affect about five per cent of the State's registered firearm owners, the government estimated it will remove more than 10,000 firearms from the community.
Since announcing the reforms, Mr Papalia has drawn backlash from members of WA's sporting, recreational firearm and farming communities, who are unhappy with his comments that fewer firearms will help create a safer community.
Doubling down on his position that the firearm caps being proposed were in the interest of public safety, Mr Papalia said by having fewer firearms in the community there would be fewer opportunities for them to be used illegally, highlighting that each week in WA between 6-10 firearms were stolen.
"The illicit firearms - they all started their life as legal firearms," Mr Papalia said.
"There is a tiny number that are imported illegally, the vast majority - they may not be from WA - but they've been stolen from somewhere in the country."
His comments drew criticism from some audience members at the PGA convention, with licensed firearm owner Mark Mazza saying WA's firearm laws were "the most draconian" in the country.
During question time, Mr Mazza said since the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996, WA's registered firearm community had been forced to continue to "jump through hoops" and were commonly being "victim-blamed" when criminals stole their firearms.
He called on Mr Papalia to put tougher laws in place for firearm theft in WA.
"If somebody comes into my home, breaks into my cabinet and steals my firearms they should be charged with armed robbery, but they're not," Mr Mazza said.
"These people seem to be getting away with so much - a slap on the wrist and their victims are getting blamed."
Following the 2016 Law Reform Commission Review of the WA firearms legislation, which recommended a complete rewrite of WA's 50-year-old Firearms Act, Mr Papalia said the State government created a legislative amendment which enacted 15 of the review's recommendations, including increased penalties for firearm theft, as well as public use of a firearm in an unlawful manner, before deciding to completely re-write the laws.
"The guys with licensed firearms are going to feel like it's all about them but it's not - it's about elevating public safety to primacy and, as a consequence of that, there are going to be a lot of changes," Mr Papalia said.
"Undoubtedly there will be people who are firearms enthusiasts, there will be people who make their money out of selling firearms, who view a limit of any description as being an anathema - we will agree to disagree on that.
"I am not talking about licensed firearm owners in the main, but there have been some pretty horrible incidents and there are regularly - which you don't hear about, but I hear about because I'm the Police Minister - where licenced firearm owners don't do the right thing.
"So they're not all angels, but I don't go out there and I'm not attacking licensed firearm owners."
Mr Papalia said the gun reforms were "not yet resolved" and "not yet locked in", reassuring the audience that the consultation paper would allow for changes to be made to the bill before it goes to parliament.
"It will be debated in the normal course in parliament... most of the debate is going to happen in the first quarter of next year, I hope, and then it will progress through both houses of parliament,'' he said.
"It's not going to be rushed through."
Mr Papalia anticipated the State's new Firearm Act would become law by the end of next year.
PGA policy director Sheldon Mumby said the organisation had been part of the consultation process as a member of the Primary Producers Firearms Advisory Board and actively engaged with the Police Minister and WA Police since March this year.
"We have been lobbying, along with WAFarmers, that firearms be recognised as a tool for primary producers, not a recreational device, so we are quite pleased with the cap of 10," Mr Mumby said.
"On top of that, there will also be the ability for primary producers to hold other licences, but 10 is actually a fair amount of firearms for both a farming or pastoral station."
However Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia (SIFA) chief executive James Walsh said Mr Papalia was "going after the easy target" by putting caps on the number of firearms the State's licensed firearm owners could own.
"The target here has to be the criminal possession of illicit firearms and the illegal use of firearms," Mr Walsh said
"Picking on licensed, law-abiding shooters is going to do diddly squat for the criminal and bikie problems in WA.
"Mr Papalia needs to come up with real solutions to the criminal possession of firearms and stop picking on law-abiding people."
Mr Walsh said the resources required to ensure WA's licensed firearm community complied with the changes being proposed would be a waste of resources for the State's police, which he said were already "understaffed and under pressure".
"The cost and resources that will be required by the police to enforce these changes - it's just nonsense," Mr Walsh said.
"Go as hard as you want on crime, go as hard as you want on the bikies and on the illegal possession of firearms and bring in mandatory sentencing for committing a crime whilst armed.
"But this isn't taking illegal firearms out of the community, this is taking registered firearms which are being used by those people who comply with the law or use them for their trade and no bikie or criminal is going to walk in and surrender their firearm."
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