The National Firearms Agreement has become a shibboleth. Reforms to improve gun laws by eliminating inconsistencies and inequities in their administration are emotively decried as "watering them down", chiefly by those who do not understand the legal, technical and legitimate gun-use facts actually involved. The NFA is not somehow "watered down" if its core principles are unaffected. Reforms to how it is administered actually strengthen our gun control laws by reinforcing these core principles and community support for them.
Letter to The Canberra Times
Thursday, 09 April 2019
(published, after major deletions marked in boldened text, Tuesday 16 April 2019)
Peter Brewer, “More silencers for the ACT as gun numbers rise nationally”, April 8, unfortunately misses that no firearms sporting body or serious political party, including the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, now seeks to change the core principles of the National Firearms Agreement.
These include registration of all guns, strict licencing of individuals based on genuine need (not including self-defence), semi-automatic and pump-action guns largely banned, and very strict secure-storage rules).
But the NFA as a whole has become a shibboleth.
Any proposed reform to eliminate inconsistencies and inequities in its application is emotively decried as “watering it down” when the opposite would generally result.
The pejorative term “gun lobby” is hurled about, despite Australia's only significant firearms manufacturer being the Department of Defence and there being no real Australian equivalent to the NRA in commercial or political-clout terms.
Two extreme fallacies confuse the gun control debate; that we’d all be safe if either everyone or no-one was armed.
The first is primarily driven by irrelevant US-style rhetoric not applicable in Australia constitutionally or culturally.
The second, is sustained generally by standard urban-rural incomprehension, magnified by our urban population density nationally.
Australia is not the USA. Strict gun control is rightly here to stay, it works very well and both extremes would be much worse.
But removing firearms entirely from private users would unfairly and impractically punish many law-abiding Australians across our rural industries, animal welfare organisations and sporting bodies.
Divorcing emotion or polemic from discussion also means noting that recent ACT reforms regarding the very strictly controlled use of silencers merely aligns the ACT with longstanding successful laws in most states.
And that, for perspective, silencers (which don’t work like on TV) are legal in NZ, and are a compulsory safety and community harmony measure when hunting in most European countries.
Most gun crime in Australia continues to be committed using illegal, unregistered guns (usually handguns), mostly smuggled in from overseas.
Despite legitimate use of handguns being increasingly strictly controlled since the 1920s without significantly affecting crime rates.
Basing any public policy on punishing the law-abiding for the sins of criminals continues to be as abhorrent as it is ineffective.
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