Here is my full submission to the Reform of firearms laws in Western Australia:
Police Minister Paul Papalia
10th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street
WEST PERTH WA 6005
CC: Police Commissioner Col Blanch
14th November 2023
I write to you, the Western Australian Labor Party Government, and the Western Australian Police Force, regarding the firearms reform manifesto that outlines new gun laws you intend to enforce on the State’s 90,000 law-abiding firearm owning community.
In addition to being a sporting shooter and taught responsible firearms ownership by my father, I have a sound understanding of Australian gun laws. I spent five years serving as the lobbyist and spokesperson for the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia (SSAA National) where I represented the organisations and its 200,000-plus members at meetings, international conferences, and political events.
I was heavily involved in the 2014-15 inquiry into gun-related violence, along with the National Firearms Agreement review in 2016-17. I also advised the state SSAA branches on political and community issues in their respective jurisdictions, including SSAAWA during the 2016 Law Reform Commission Review of the WA Firearms Legislation.
I also have experience in federal and state politics, serving as an Advisor to former Senator David Leyonhjelm in the federal parliament. Senator Leyonhjelm prosecuted the case for fairer firearms laws from the perspective of individual liberties and private property rights, as did his WA counterpart, the former Hon. Aaron Stonehouse MLC, whom I also worked for during the last Western Australian Parliament.
As a Lead Senate Candidate at the 2022 federal election, I ran on a pro-shooting and hunting platform urging politicians to ‘Give Gun Owners A Fair Go’. You may recall my election sign, which I personally delivered to your office.
I am now an independent public advocate for liberty and utilise my ‘Lady Liberty’ platform to communicate with thousands of followers, many of whom are shooters and hunters. I am contacted daily by Western Australians who share their stories of how your new laws will personally affect them.
One gentleman who contacted me was a veteran who served our country overseas and shoots long range precision rifle with some fellow veterans and keen sportsmen. He and his mates had their firearms confiscated by your Government under the “very high powered firearms” calibre bans you bought in on July 1 this year.
Many others have contacted me expressing the consequences of these laws and how it will change the ability for future generations to learn the skill of hunting or target shooting, particularly among men who are currently the biggest users of firearms. Others are worried that the increase in costs, the limits on what private property they can own or pass down to their children, and the stress of ongoing physical and mental health checks, will deter and ultimately wipe out the next generation of shooters and hunters.
I am particularly concerned about the proposal to give the Police Commissioner and Government the power to prevent an individual from using or owning a firearm based on our “views, opinions or attitudes”. This is an affront to the basic human right to freedom of expression.
What’s more, it allows the Government to become the arbiters of what views, opinions or attitudes are acceptable in society, and what are not.
It would be remiss of me to mention the number of messages, phone calls and emails I’ve had from Western Australians who are devastated, angry and hurt by your treatment of our segment of society.
From the outset, you, your Government and the Police have painted any Western Australian who owns, uses or possesses a firearm for legitimate activities, as someone that should be regarded as highly suspect.
You, your Government and the Police have failed to understand our proud sports shooting traditions and hunting culture, disrespecting those of us who participate in recreational hunting or competitive target shooting by misrepresenting us and creating fear among the community.
You, your Government and the Police put public safety at risk when you provided our personal information about our private firearms ownership, stored in the State legislated Firearms Registry, to the State’s newspaper, who then used the information to print a map on the front page revealing the location of our homes.
This doxing event not only threatened public safety and revealed highly sensitive private information: it was a coordinated attack on a minority group that weaponised the media against us. Further proof of this has been seen during this short consultation period, with taxpayer-funded advertisements calling for feedback conveniently printed next to stories about misuse of firearms by criminals.
Throughout the entire reform process, you, your Government and the Police have provided no empirical data that supports your claims that your new laws will reduce gun crime. In fact, there is so much evidence to the contrary that it is fair to assume that this is not about public safety, but about targeting a misunderstood, close knit and typically private section of society under the guise of public safety.
If the objective of the Western Australian Labor Party Government and Police is the ultimate disarming of law-abiding civilians; of making it near impossible for us to participate in our sporting, hunting and collecting activities; of creating a society in which only the Police, military and security guards for the political and corporate elite have guns; then this manifesto will certainly aid you in achieving this.
This is not the outcome I, or many of my followers, expect from a Government that is meant to operate in a liberal democratic society. Private civilian firearms ownership that balances public safety while respecting our culture, traditions and liberties is fundamental to our liberal democracy.
I have read the firearms reform manifesto carefully and offer this letter and constructive input into the content of the paper. If you require any further examples of how these laws will affect peaceful law-abiding Western Australian firearm owners while doing nothing to stop gun crime by criminals and organised crime groups, please do not hesitate to contact me.
My offer to publicly debate you still stands.
Yours in liberty,
Tone of the manifesto
There is no mention or acknowledgement that firearms are a legitimate tool safely used by generations of Western Australians for a variety of cultural and traditional hunting and sporting activities in the entire document.
This includes the skill of hunting for food or to despatch pest or feral animals ethically, along with target shooting for sporting, competition, or recreational purposes.
The three purposes outlined in the Statement of Purpose mentions public safety on each occasion. It states that public safety “can be improved by requiring strict controls”. It further states that “an underlying principle of firearms regulation is to prevent the harm firearms may cause as dangerous items”.
Firearms are inanimate objects. They are only harmful if intentionally misused by an individual to cause harm. Licensed firearm owners in Western Australia use firearms responsibly, every day, under extremely strict controls already, without causing harm to anyone. Western Australian firearm owners are the most upstanding members of society because we have to be, in order to keep our licence.
The Statement of Purpose insinuates that the current laws are not adequate in terms of public safety while providing no Regulatory Impact Statement that proves otherwise.
Arbitrary limits on private property ownership
Not once in the manifesto, consultation period or entire process has the Government justified the arbitrary limits on the number of privately owned firearms proposed to be enforced on the law-abiding individual.
To create a State where individuals are permanently limited to own a legislated number of firearms as dictated by the Police and State-employed bureaucrats, while our fellow Australians in other states and territories are governed by laws that do not set any upper limits, creates a two-tiered country with different rights afforded to someone based on our postcode.
There is no evidence that suggests more firearms owned by law-abiding individuals creates more violent gun crime.
In the absence of a Regulatory Impact Statement and empirical evidence that justifies the mass confiscation of legally owned private property by peaceful people who have committed no crimes, the arbitrary limits on firearms must be removed from all proposals.
Views, attitudes or opinions and reputation for fit & proper person purposes
As mentioned in my cover letter, the inclusion of an individual’s views, opinions or attitudes as part of the fit and proper person requirements creates a society where the State will determine what views, opinions or attitudes are acceptable.
The proposal appears to be in breach of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
The proposal comes without any justification as to why the State thinks it has the right to use an individual’s view, opinion or attitude against us when applying for a firearms licence. Concepts of “good repute” is subjective; an individual may be deemed to be of good repute by one person, yet a morally flawed character by another. At the same time, someone may not be of good moral character but are not necessarily dangerous.
Giving the State, Police or bureaucrat employed by the State the power to determine whether a person shall be banned from a firearms licence based on this test infringes on an individual’s human right to freedom of expression.
There is also no information regarding how this test will be conducted: will it be through monitoring of social media? Through secret interviews with our workmates or ex-partners? Through monitoring our behaviour via CCTV networks? The lack of information is just as concerning as the proposal itself.
Mandatory ongoing mental and physical health assessments
The inclusion of mandatory, annual mental health checks will deter an individual from seeking help; will put enormous pressure on already stretched mental health medical providers; and lowers the bar drastically on who the State can label a prohibited person.
According to the latest National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 45.3 per cent of Western Australia’s 2.1 million population aged 16 to 85 years have a lifetime mental health disorder. This includes anxiety.
A lifetime loss of firearms ownership when most mental health issues can be addressed, alleviated and managed, especially when it comes to situational conditions brought on or exacerbated by environmental stressors like a job loss or a failed relationship, is excessive.
The “dob in a mate” proposals completely ignores the current culture in which the shooting and hunting community look after each other. If someone expresses any behaviour of concern, or needs help, we have our own safety nets and self-reporting procedures to protect and support each other. Treating mental health as a criminal and policing issue drastically changes the civil commitment culture of our entire community.
It also puts more pressure on mental health providers, the police and will add more costs to the licensing process. The medical community are also rightly asking who will be liable in the event of a misdiagnosis.
Veterans have also contacted me asking if PTSD will be considered a mental health condition that will see them stripped of their licenses. Women have contacted me asking if post-natal depression will see them stripped of their licenses. Others have raised concerns about what will be defined as a mental health problem, such as ADHD, or those who take prescription cannabis for anxiety.
This proposal also directly contradicts what former Premier Mark McGowan told the public. On 21st May, 2018, Mr McGowan was quoted in The West Australian saying mental health reporting rules could deter individuals from seeking help:
“It’s an area which is difficult because you don’t want to put people off seeking attention…So if someone knows if they seek attention and support they are going to lose other aspects of their life they might like, they may not seek the attention and support.”
Instead of dreaming up some non-existent “loophole” that could turn almost half of the adults into prohibited persons, the Government should look at why existing laws designed to identify and deal with dangerous individuals are being ignored instead of being enforced. Too often we hear that the offender was known to authorities, but nothing was done to intervene.
The Government should also be aware that using someone’s physical appearance or attributes against them breaches discrimination laws, as does judging someone’s living or domestic conditions.
Mandatory criminal disqualifications
In the absence of the complete list of crimes that will see an individual permanently banned from owning a firearm, one assumes that the list will only include crimes in which the rehabilitation of the offender has been proven to be impossible.
Otherwise, this could be read as the State creating an additional punishment outside of the court system and penalises a person for life, despite doing the time for the crime.
This is akin to the way in which convicted child offenders are treated in terms of controlling where they live.
Individuals who are charged with a criminal offence should be afforded the presumption of innocence and are entitled to a fair trial, with guilt judged in court and the appropriate punishment handed down accordingly.
The Firearms Registry
Reference to a digital photographic firearms licence in the manifesto raises huge security concerns. While some might make the argument that this might make life easier for authorities or gun dealers, this is not an acceptable reason for creating a central online hub containing sensitive information.
There are also legitimate questions surrounding whether or not governments are able to securely store and protect sensitive data.
An individual’s right to privacy should take precedence above all other considerations.
Keeping a list of legally held firearms by law-abiding firearm owners will not stop criminals. Criminals will not register their firearms and will continue to illegally import and use their illegal guns outside of the law. Meanwhile, law-abiding firearm owners who simply want to participate in a lawful activity continue to be scrutinised, over-regulated and treated like criminals-in-waiting.
Firearms registries have proven to be a costly expense to the taxpayer that delivers next to nil benefit to public safety and do nothing to stop gun crime.
Given the Government have shown they cannot be trusted with our sensitive private information, I urge the Government to destroy all firearms registration records and abolish the Registry immediately.
The fact an individual has a firearms licence issued by the State is evidence of firearms ownership and is the only personal information the authorities need to know.
Trade Licence Minimum Activity and Reporting Requirements
Prescribing the minimum level of business activity a gun shop or firearms dealership must meet in order to keep operating will give the State the ability to interfere in the free market. It gives the State the power to shut down a privately owned business, many of which are small family run operations, all because they don’t meet some arbitrary levels of trade set by the State.
The voluntary exchange of goods between willing participants is how markets thrive. Threatening to shut down gun shops because they don’t make enough sales, particularly in the current economic climate, is cruel, excessive, and wrong.
A permanent amnesty is another example of Government changing culture and public perceptions of firearms. It implies that firearms and any related parts are worthless and should be handed in to the State.
Firearms are not worthless items. They are private property that have worth. An amnesty is an attempt to normalise confiscations.
Any private property obtained, or confiscated, by the State must see the owner compensated appropriately.
Given the current economic climate, it is questionable whether spending taxpayers’ money on confiscation schemes that disarm peaceful people is a fiscally responsible use of our funds.