In this story we reveal that there is work being done at national level to change our gun laws – and why their approach to gun laws cannot work.

Working behind our backs …

NT POLICE MINISTER, Kate Worden (pictured), was recently asked a question in NT Parliament about the matter involving NT stabbing hero, Ron Sterry

That’s when she mentioned something else that caught our attention.

In her response, she said:

“There is some national work, following the tragic shootings in Queensland and the loss of two young police officers.

There is a body of work, and we do not want to do one thing now and go back to do more later.

We are also looking at the structure of the firearms unit to make sure it aligns with policy nationally, locally and what the Chief Judge has suggested.

The work is well under way, and I am happy to give you a briefing as to where we are at in that cycle.”

What ‘body of work’?

The reference to the Queensland shootings was a reference to the shooting of two police officers at Wieambilla on December 12 last year.

As much of a tragedy as it was, the matter was a crime and needs to treated that way.

However it’s obvious that there is work happening ‘behind the scenes’ nationally that will affect shooters in every state.   

In fact it struck us as odd that the minister chose to start her answer  with something that had nothing to do with the question that she was asked. 

The only part that was relevant was the reference to the Chief Judge, who suggested an anomaly in the NT Firearms Act be fixed.  The rest of it was unrelated.

The fact this was even mentioned she was recently briefed on whatever it is that is going on.

At best, the ‘national work’ will be something that might keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.  At worst, it will be yet again something that affects every shooter.

We’ve asked her what this is about

We’ve written to the minister asking for more information on what she is referring to and will let you know what she says.

The bigger question that we have also put to the minister, is, why won’t politicians consult with shooters?

It’s about Guns & Sport, not Guns & Crime

When politicians talk about guns, it’s nearly always in the context of crime.   In our view, that’s the wrong approach: it needs to be around guns and sport. 

There’s a simple reason for that: there is something like 900,000 of licensed shooters who engage in those activities – and maybe a few hundred crims who do the wrong thing every year – with guns that were never legal to begin with.

It’s a simple question of maths and the fact is these groups have nothing to do with each other

Yet whenever politicians talk about guns, there is no distinction between the two groups.  They let their concerns about a few crims dictate what they want to do with the 900,000 shooters who don’t do anything wrong.

The same politicians would never put airline pilots and terrorists who hijack aircraft in the same group. 

Nor would they say anyone who rides a motorbike is obviously a member of an outlawed motorcycle gang

Or lump chemists in with illicit drug dealers.

… but that’s what they do when it comes to licensed shooters

Not only that, but there is an insinuation that licensed shooters support crime – and a belief that shooters are the ones who need to be more heavily regulated – and should not be given the courtesy of being consulted.

It’s wrong and offensive. 

It’s also why anything based on the assumptions they are creating, will lead to bad policy outcomes – and bad laws.

What should happen

Good policy starts with identifying a problem and then engaging with stakeholders to find out IF the government needs to intervene.

After all, the government would never look at making laws affecting doctors without engaging with their associations first.  Otherwise they risk taking the wrong action to fix the wrong problem.

What does happen

Yet that’s what happens when it comes to firearms. 

That’s what’s happening in Western Australia where the police minister is basing laws on information on his own perception and whatever the regulator says.

When a politician takes advice from a regulator, they are running the risk that the advice they received will be biased towards that regulator

That’s because regulators have a vested interest in creating more laws to justify more resources.  That’s especially true of the police because its how those in charge get promotions.

Bypassing the  community that understands the industry and has the best available information, means the information the government gets will not be complete.

In other words, the wrong approach guarantees the wrong bad policy outcomes.

It also doesn’t add up

The correct way to make policy is to find out what the costs and benefits of laws are. 

If the benefits of what is proposed outweigh the costs, then the law should be made.  If not, then it shouldn’t. 

It’s like buying a TV – if a TV does what you want and doesn’t cost too much, then it makes sense to get it.

Let’s say, for example, that the government had the bright idea to paint all roads light blue to make them easier to see when driving at night.  It wouldn’t get up because the (astronomical) costs of painting roads would provide no real benefit

I know that’s an extreme example to use, but it underlines the point that policies are meant to be based on there being a net public benefit.

A pathological distrust of shooters

Instead shooters are regularly lumbered with this “don’t-consult-’em”, “don’t-do-the calculations” approach.


Are we going to lie to them? 

Are we going to jump across the table and break their arms? 

Ignoring shooters is not only morally wrong, but it means decisions are based on incomplete information – and is highly disrespectful of who we are. 

Instead they probably know – and fear – that shooters do in fact have something useful to say, which is inconvenient to have to deal with.

That’s why politicians and regulators don’t want to give us a seat at the table.

 It’s why we need to use the political system to convince them to change their thinking – to get them to stop relying on assumptions that  aren’t true.  Yes, we need that seat at the table.

Some examples of what could go wrong

It’s not hard to think of policies that badly informed politicians might float as ideas, such as:

  • Ammo limits: I mean, who needs to have more than 20 rounds with them?”  Shooters I know buy ammo by the case (5,000 rounds).  That’s because it not only ensures supply, but it’s more economical.  Some of the more serious competitors might shoot a brick (500 rounds) or the equivalent in shotgun shells a week. It also means they are shooting from the same batch which can affect performance.
  • Safes:Heck, every gun safe should be like a bank vault, eh?”  WA is proposing a minimum of 4mm wall thickness. Most movable safes would not comply with that.
  • Juniors:Kids should not be allowed near guns.”  Well, I’ve got some news for you.  Russell Mark was an Olympic champion. He was a national champion at 16.  Most of our top athletes took up shooting as teenagers

… and on it goes.  These are just three examples of the sorts of things that would NEVER get up if the government took the right approach to developing policy.  However we would not put it past them to at least try some of these things.

That’s why consultation is so important – and basic for government to do.

Back to Queensland – what is on it’s way?

We wish we knew – but whatever it is, we’re confident it won’t be costed and we won’t be consulted until the proposal is a long way down the track. We also think the discussion will remain on guns & crime, rather than guns & sport

That’s why we’re chasing this up with the minister.

Our best guess is that whatever the ‘body of work’ is, will probably relate to suitability to hold a firearms licence. If it relates to real criminals, then fine – but the government needs to leave licensed shooters alone.

NT’s next election isn’t far away

If logic won’t work, then politics will.

Voters in the NT go to the polls next August.  This matter will be factoring into the voting advice we provide.

Why not put this on your club’s noticeboard? 

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