WA exemptions

Papalia’s new gun laws contain exemptions that could let WA Police sweep gun thefts and heavy alcohol use under the carpet

Exemptions: the new safety loophole

WA’S NEW FIREARM LAWS already contain changes that are unworkable and unwelcome.

We’ve covered most of the key issues – including the risk of this bureaucratic cancer spreading to other states.

However, there is another surprise which deserves attention.

Police employees to be exempt

AS IS THE CASE elsewhere, police officers and others in law enforcement have certain exemptions from state firearm laws.

This is usually limited only to the requirement to obtain and pay for licences. We don’t have any real issue with that: it’s nothing new.

Police exemption

However it does not excuse officers from other requirements, such as the rules around how guns should be handled.

While exemptions will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it’s reasonable to assume that their employer – the relevant police force – will look after any problems that arise internally.

However, what is being proposed in Western Australia goes beyond that.

The bill currently before WA Parliament will exempt officers from WA Police, the AFP and defence force personnel from all the qualifications that shooters will need to go through to get a licence.

The exemption will also apply to “employees” of WA Police. In other words, civilian staff – not officers.

The exemption is conditional on it applying “in the ordinary course of their duties” – which begs the question of which employees use firearms at work.

While we can assume that WA Police will document this internally, the legislation doesn’t require it to do so: we think WAPol should clarify who within it’s administration requires firearms, what those duties are, and what controls are in place.

An exemption from licensing

The bill will exempt officers from having to comply with “Part 5” of the new laws.

Part 5 covers not only licensing, but it contains prohibitions from supplying firearms “without authority”, supplying to “unauthorised persons”, buying firearms and major parts, and has similar requirements relating to ammunition.

Part 5 also prohibits interfering with serial numbers and altering firearms.

While we’re confident WAPol would never sanction these things, the problem is that without specifying conditions, a person who is otherwise exempted cannot be prosecuted for these offences.

Why then, should anyone – whether they are police or otherwise – need to be exempt from these prohibitions?

… and another exemption from storage

The bill will also exempt the same persons from having to comply with
Part 7 of the bill, which covers security and storage of firearms.

Part 7 not only covers the specifications of what constitutes approved storage but has strict requirements around ensuring firearms are kept safe.  The exemption means those standards will not apply to WA Police officers or employees.

This means, if a firearm is stolen from police (or employee), then again, the can’t be prosecuted – but licenced shooters can.

Sweeping problems under the carpet

The exemption goes well beyond the administrative burden of obtaining and paying for a licence.

It bypasses other measures that Police Minister, Paul Papalia, is imposing on licensed shooters.

The exemption means there is no requirement for officers and employees to be medically or mentally fit to hold firearms. This means the penalties for any issues that might arise, cannot be applied to them.

Again, we’re confident that WA Police will say it will deal with any issues caused by its personnel internally, however the way the law is written does not require it.  It creates the opportunity for WA Police to sweep any problems “under the carpet” – and we’ll never be able to find out if that has happened.

WHAT IS particularly baffling is why police should not be subjected to the same standard of safekeeping when it comes to the storage of firearms.

From our perspective, there is no excuse for this.

Join for $30 a year

Why officers may need to meet the new health standard

It was pointed out to us that section 148 of the bill does not fall within
Parts 5 or 7, which means officers and employees cannot be exempted from the requirements of that section.

Section 148 requires that any person who applies for a “firearm authority” must meet the relevant ‘health standard’ before that authority is granted.

The phrase “firearm authority” is not defined or qualified. One view is that it encompasses permissions of any type – whether that is a licence or exemption is simply the form of the permission.

In other words, it is arguable that any person who is legally able to possess a firearm (including those who hold a Part 5  / 7 exemption), will still need to meet the relevant health standard.  This means the 7,000 WA Police officers and employees will also need to undergo the same tests as licenced shooters.  

WA Police need to be transparent

Given the concerns we have listed, and the burden the bill will impose on every licensed shooter in WA, it would not be unreasonable to expect WA Police to publish the standards it will apply to those who are exempted.

This is necessary because the exemption must not create a lower standard for WA Police personnel that applies to everyone else.

The information WA Police should publish should cover things such as:

  • Training (and retraining) and proficiency
  • The mental and health requirements (including identifying where an officer might fail these over time)
  • How firearms are to be secured, stored and transported

There will be other items, but this is a good start.

There’s no ‘bar exemption’ ….

WE RECENTLY COVERED the ‘questionnaire’ that many shooters in WA will receive that will probe them on their use of medication and alcohol (among other things).

In particular, the questionnaire asks if the applicant drinks six or more alcoholic drinks a day or if they drink more than four times a week.

It also asks if they have a hearing aid, diabetes, arthritis or are being treated for other conditions.

In the circumstances – and if these questions are relevant to public safety, it would not be unreasonable to expect that the same questions will be asked of WA Police or employees. 

The bar exemption

Gone are the good old days …

What are we to do if we spot an off-duty officer downing his sixth Swan Draught at the Plain Street Bar, just down the road from WAPol HQ?

Should we text Police Commissioner, Col Branch? 

What if the guy at the bar is Col? 

What will become of WAPol’s Christmas parties?

As an aside, the targeting of physical ailments will unfairly target the disabled who enjoy shooting as a sport they can do.

Mental health

As we have previously stated, answering the questionnaire openly and honestly could result in some shooters losing their licences (or not being able to obtain one).

Yet we also know that it is better to encourage people who might need some help, to come forward, rather than hide it.

A WA Police Union survey of members revealed that 71.4% of respondents said they had used the WA Police Force’s Health, Welfare and Safety Division’s mental health services.

We know that police suicides are on the rise and that depression often occurs within police ranks.  The fact is, individual officers are not immune from mental health pressures which can come from toxic and stressful environments

Our question is, will those 71% of members be required to disclose this to their employer? We ask that because the questionnaire asks for the same information from licenced shooters.

Or will a lesser standard apply?  Again, Papalia’s new laws do not prevent that from happening.

We know police work is hard and being on the beat is never easy – and yes, we have sympathy for those who put up with abuse every day.

However, that only raises the probability that it will be police officers, not licenced shooters, who should be required to comply with Papalia’s new standard.

The big question is, will this be ‘swept under the carpet’ – and how can we ensure that it isn’t?

Why not put this on your club’s noticeboard? 


Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Trevor Pollock

Bit like the police investigating themselves for any wrong doings.
What could possibly go wrong?
Just had a police officer in NSW charged with 2 counts of murder using a police issued pistol,along with some issues being raised about his mental wellbeing!
WA has/is turning into a socialist state with no confidence in Government or Police!

Robert Gee

Neil, is almost impossible to know where to begin. What an effing cock up of a bill! As you’ve pointed out previously, what happens in one jurisdiction can migrate to another. I sincerely hope you are able to convey your legitimate concerns to WAPOL and WA legislators before anything gets cast in stone.


Your question: Will this be swept under the carpet?
Your question: How can we ensure that it isn’t?
You/we can’t.

The simple reasoning is that Police & Politicians regard shooters as the enemy and mental defectives that need to be controlled to the n’th degree.
I’m also very surprised about some aspects of the sections with officers and employees not needing to comply. I know that, as a previous employee of a state police branch, I was certainly not exempted from anything – especially the checks and the storage requirements (although I also saw the details of what firearms got stolen and that the safes you buy at the gun shops are NOT up to the job unless you go for a gold standard).

The simple fact is that a) Police investigating themselves will NEVER produce a negative result, and b) Police departments in Australia have an exceedingly long history of attacking and pursuing whistle-blowers rather than clean up their own game.

ken eatt

80 year old,licenced commercial,taxpaying citizen. and yes,i have a hearing aid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SIGN UP to get our regular email updates.

You'll also get direct access to our podcasts to stay up to date while driving the car, on the way to work, or when you're tinkering in the shed!
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x