Donna Adams targets collectors

TasPol is targetting collectors over antique firearms  to ‘improve community safety’. 
In fact, they’re happy to see them crushed.

Collectors ambushed

COLLECTORS IN TASMANIA have been ambushed by changes to their gun laws which will now require them to have their pre-1900 antiques regulated in the same way as other firearms.

This means those owners will now need to also be licenced, guns may need to be marked with serial numbers and stored in the same way as other firearms.

The only alternative they are offering is to have those old, valuable, irreplaceable firearms and heirlooms, crushed.

How this happened

Unlike collectors on the mainland who have statutory recognition , collectors in Tasmania were the subject of a Police Commissioner’s exemption under the Tasmanian Firearms Act 1996.

That exemption has now been withdrawn, which means all guns are now regulated in the same way– regardless of whether they are capable of being fired or risk.  This was done without any prior notice -and without a peep from government.

Here is what some collectors received.  

Click the image to download the letter as a PDF

TasPol advice to collectors

Not all collectors got the message

 That’s because no data was kept on those who were fully exempted. 

The police were only able to identify collectors who had licences for other reasons – plus of course, the collectors’ organisations.

Contrary to the National Firearms Agreement

Clause 19 of the National Firearms Agreement makes it clear that the jurisdictions were to have laws that provide for collectors. 

It states ”Collectors will be regulated by means of a licence and permit system…”

However, Tasmania has not done that. It has no such system, and instead relied on an exemption managed by the Commissioner of Police.

The Federal AG’s site doubles down by stating “The National Firearms Agreement constitutes a national approach to the regulation of firearms.”


No, it doesn’t.

Having a national approach would mean the decision to affect collectors would be made by Police Minister, Felix Ellis.

It wasn’t. It was delegated.

Chaos: the foundation of Australia’s firearm policies

WE RECENTLY called the policy environment underpinning our gun laws chaotic. That’s because it is: it’s certainly not uniform

The rationale used  in this instance was contained in this media statement

Assistant Commissioner Rob Blackwood said that the changes were aimed at improving community safety, and owners of antique firearms will be given time to consider their new licensing and registration requirements.

 There was no explanation of how this ‘improves community safety’. All it does is inconvenience those who comply with the law.  There were also no instances of misuse that were referred to. 

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Other information does point to the exemption being ‘misinterpreted’ with respect to firearms that can take commercially available ammunition. 

That may be so, but it’s the role of a regulator to ensure the correct interpretation is applied. That means prosecuting those who break the law.

Changing the law does not fix those concerns.  All it does is affect those who did not break the law.

In this case we understand the issue may be around the availability of 12, 20 and 410 gauge shotgun shells for antique shotguns. 

However that hardly justifies removing the exemption.  There is no evidence of a “community safety” problem , no evidence of misuse, and no evidence that supports the decision that was made.

How can anyone reasonably expect shooters to respect a policy basis that is chaotic and unpredictable?  We are entitled to better.

When being blunt is dumb

If anything, the concerns TasPol may have had with the exemption should have been a flag to clarify anything that needed clarification

Removing the exemption implies that the previous policy that was used, was a failure.  Yet the policy has worked well in other states.  In other words, it has only been a failure in Tasmania – and we say that is a poor reflection on TasPol’s capabilities as a regulator.

In fact it is a reflection on Adams.  This is echoed by the fact that nothing has been offered in the exemption’s place

The advice from TasPol says it will  consider exemptions on a ‘case-by-case’ basis – but they will be “time limited”. 

These exemptions will only be provided to allow collectors into a licensing regime which means this is not a permanent alternative.

… and showing contempt

The advice also makes it clear that if  you find complying problematic, your only remaining option is to “surrender the firearm to police for destruction”.

Bear in mind we are talking about guns that are antiques, and have historical and monetary value.  That’s how Tasmania Police view gun collections.

Failing to fix the problem

We understand that internal police advice is that it had no power to make the original exemption in 1997. 

While we can understand the legal argument to support that (as the intent of parliament does not allow for wholesale “carveouts”), the response has been less than helpful

It doesn’t fix the problem: all it does is put many, many collectors outside the law – and with unreasonable burdens, through no fault of their own.

Ellis needs to fire someone…

 The Chief Commissioner Adams’ actions reflect on her management of this matter.

It follows the recent Victorian decision to ban bolt action shotguns based on ‘opportunistic misuse’ rather than any pattern of actual misuse.

Or any misuse.

Minister Ellis needs to fire someone.

The background

The section 4 exemption came into effect in 1997.

That’s because the Tasmanian legislation did not provide for collectors.  That is a problem that was created by the Tasmanian Parliament – and which is arguably duty bound to acknowledge, fix, and apologise for.

Not only because it goes against the NFA, but it means a key political decision was delegated to a public servant who is not accountable to the public.

This does not happen in other states or territories: only Tasmania.


We understand meetings with police to work through the exemption are underway.

We do not wish to interfere with that, but think that the meetings need to be with politicians – particularly Police Minister Felix Ellis MP.

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That’s because this is a policy issue that affects property rights and the rights of individuals

It affects a lot of collectors who vote, and are entitled to be treated the same way as collectors in other states.

It also affects Tasmania’s compliance with the NFA. 

This isn’t a question about enforcing the law, which is what our police forces are for.  It’s about whether Adams should be allowed to exercise more power than Parliament.

Our view is that her decision is potentially challengeable, possibly even ultra vires,  given the policy intent of the NFA that Tasmania signed up to, specifically exempted collectors.

The response

 COLLECTORS ARE UNDERSTANDABLY fired up over this. Collectors in other states have statutory recognition – as required under the NFA. 

We understand Tasmanian collectors wanted legislation to mirror what is the case in Victoria, and the ‘yellow book’ which details what firearms are and are not collectables. 

This was rejected by the previous manager of Tasmania’s Firearms Services.

What collectors need

Collectors are, and will continue, lobbying.  They believe that the Commissioner should not be able to bypass the Tasmanian Parliament on such a fundamental policy question.

They want to see the status and rights of collectors enshrined in legislation.

Tasmania’s rich history of heirlooms

Collectors aside, we understand there are many farmers who are also upset with the new requirement. 

Some farms are former colonial properties that have been handed down through generations.  These families have had firearms such as muzzleloaders owned by great grandfathers – that now need to be registered. 

There is no history of problems with these guns – except in the imagination of some.

Costs – and what about compensation?

The key collecting organisations advise that they are continuing to field many phone calls, including from those with substantial collections.  

One impact is that in addition to gaining licences, each firearm will cost $80 to transfer through dealers. One collector has estimated the cost to him being $9,600 – for no gain in ‘community safety’.

Such a move could not happen in some other states without a ‘regulatory impact statement’.  Like WA, Tasmania does not require them.

We also understand that there are no plans to provide compensation – which is obviously a significant issue when it comes to antiques. The only option being provided by TasPol is the crusher.

Storage of antiques

 Another issue is the practicality of what is proposed. Until now, the requirement has been to keep antiques ‘safe’ and out of hands who aren’t authorised to have them.

The new requirement is to store antiques in gun safes.  However, punt guns, for example, can be 8 feet long. There are no commercially available safes that cater for them.

It also doesn’t make any sense.

Antiques have value that provides the owners with significant incentives to keep them secure.


 The question about whether antiques should have registration numbers is yet to be sorted out.

In one example provide to use, a 1805 Brown Bess worth $10,000, could drop to one tenth of its value if engraved with a registration number.

1805 Brown Bess

Our message to collectors: Get Political!

 As noted, meetings with the police are under way.  We recommend collectors meet with the police minister, and if that doesn’t work, with the Premier.

If that doesn’t work, they should think about joining forces to get involved in the next Tasmanian State Election due in mid-2025.

How they do that is something they should discuss. However if the politicians won’t listen to them, then they need to use the political process to change that.

They need to get the right advice. The risks of being ineffective is significant if collectors are to fight back unaided.  They need to invest in the right strategy.

We have already steered them to someone who has a solid track record in this.

We are also willing to help out where we can. However this will only work if collectors agree to do this as a group.

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Why not put this on your club’s noticeboard? 



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Gareth Gunn

The only indication that this was coming was the removal of the frequently asked question section (FAQ) relating to antiques from Firearms Services website a little beforehand. I hope that like me, many other Tasmanians will be apauled at the idea of Police arbiterily destroying peoples property. Examining the top three dealers in Australian antique arms yesterday I cam up with an average figure of over $3000.00. Unlike old ‘clunkers’ handed in during preceeding buybacks in recent years there large sums om money involved here. Hence no buyback…I have written to our police commissioner & Police minister and await an answer.


IF one wants to actually fire an antique pistol, you have to join a pistol club to obtain an “H” class license in NSW. This involves expensive fees & compulsory attendance at the pistol club. IF the rest of Australia adopts these new Tasmania gun laws, are they likely to allow us to obtain an “H” class license? Will we will be forced to attend & use club pistols on the range just so we can keep our antique pistol collection?


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