Abbott banning the Adler
On Sunday, the 26th of July, Tony Abbott announced that he was going to prevent the importation of the Adler shotgun. This unprecedented move by the Prime Minister created havoc within the firearms community. I spent the following Monday answering countless inquiries from upset customers who had paid their deposit on this popular shotgun.
Unfortunately, we had very little information to give our customers and the past few weeks have been spent trying to find out what we can. All we can tell clients at this stage is:
- The importation has been delayed by 6 months
- The Police Ministers from all states are going to discuss changes to firearms legislation with a view to re-categorising lever action shotguns as Cat. C.
Even the importer (our supplier, Nioa Trading), can’t help us with any information. All we can tell our customers is that, although this isn’t an outright ban, anyone who has placed a deposit on one of these shotguns is free to cancel their order and be refunded their deposit.
We will update everyone as soon as we receive additional information.
The following are my personal thoughts and comments, written over the last couple of weeks. Circumstances may have changed slightly, but I still stand by the point of my argument.
Abbott’s Thought Process
First up, I want to make it clear that this blog isn’t about Tony Abbott or Bill Shorten; it’s not about the Liberal Party, Labor Party, National Party or the Greens. It’s about politics, and the underhanded way our guns and our shooting sports are being manipulated for political gain. For what it’s worth, I don’t vote for any of the major parties.
The Australian Labor Party held their National Conference on the weekend of Friday 24th to Sunday 26th of July, at which they announced they would get tougher on asylum seekers and be less ambitious about Co2 emission targets. While many Labor supporters were angered and disillusioned by these decisions, Labor had taken a step to the right and moved its policy settings firmly into Coalition territory. This move had the potential to pose a serious threat to Abbott in the polls and was potentially damaging to his already shaky leadership.
Australia is coming up to another Federal election, which the Abbott government can call at any time in the next 6 to 10 months. Abbott leadership isn’t secure (facing challenges from either Turnbull, Morrison or Bishop) and the party hasn’t led in the opinion polls at any time in the last 18 months. Other issues, such as the misuse of Parliamentary travel allowances by Bronwyn Bishop and others has also caused major damage to the Liberal Party brand.
Abbott is faced with a massive uphill task if he wants to win the next election, so it’s reasonable to assume that he will do anything he can to win votes, including using the same tactics employed by his old boss and mentor, John Winston Howard – a master at scaring the population for political gain.
The Howard Years
Immediately after his first election, Howard used the Port Arthur tragedy to scare the population into supporting his Gun Buyback. Gun owners were lumped into the same basket as criminals with the Howard’s ‘Tough on Crime’ mantra.
During a televised speech to gun owners, Howard insisted on wearing a bullet proof vest, even though the speech was given in a closed stadium and everyone in attendance had been searched prior to entering. It was a deliberate attempt to show the Australian population that shooters are dangerous and a threat to our way of life. It worked. Howard experienced a boost in the polls and, as a result, used his “tough on guns” and “tough on crime/borders/customs” slogans to keep him in office for another three terms. I’ll talk more about this in a later blog.
On the weekend Labor’s National Conference announced its policy changes, Abbot seized the opportunity to dog-whistle some swinging votes by declaring that he would oppose the importation of the Adler shotgun by 6 months. Without having consulted anyone, Abbott claimed that delay would allow the Police Ministers in each state to convene to discuss possible changes to the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), including re-categorisation of lever action shotguns as category C. This claim was reiterated by the Justice Minister, Keenan, who went on to link firearm ownership to the “terrorist threat in Australia” – an appalling attack on licensed shooters in Australia.
Abbott is rattling the same old swords of his predecessor – he needs to exaggerate issues by linking them to such things as terrorism and the Lindt Café siege in order to keep the electorate frightened, giving him the opportunity to swoop in and save the day. As the election draws closer, “fear factors” will be ramped up to keep security foremost in the minds of voters. For example, It has recently been leaked that the National Security Committee (part of Abbott’s Cabinet) has requested a list of National Security related ‘things’ that can be announced weekly between now and the election. Scrutiny of the nature or importance of the ‘things’ themselves appears to be irrelevant – it’s the weekly dose of fear that they deliver within the community that is important.
Lever Action Shotguns – The Facts
Contrary to what the Victorian Attorney General’s department claims, lever action firearms are not “new and emerging firearms technologies”. All of the popular high capacity magazine lever action firearms date back to the 19th century. I would estimate half of the Australian shooting population would own at least one of the popular lever action models – be they Winchester lever action rifles (1873, 1892 and 1894) or Marlin lever action rifles (1893/36/336, 1894 and 1895). Not to mention the countless number of 1887 lever action shotguns that have been in circulation over the last 128 years.
Whilst crimes committed with licensed firearms are particularly rare in Australia, crimes committed with lever actions are virtually non-existent (even if, as in some cases, they have a 15 shot magazine!) In fact, since the advent of the bolt action firearm,
- Lever action firearms have had virtually no military application.
- Both world wars were fought with bolt action rifles as the main weapon-of-choice by armies on both sides, even though lever actions were available.
- Lever actions rifles have not been used to any extent by any army in an international war.
- Lever action firearms have never been used by terrorist groups.
Any argument that lever action firearms offer any additional risk to public safety than other firearms of different action types is ridiculous.
Arguing that there is any connection between lever action firearms and the Lindt Café is similar nonsense. Monis had no serious connections to terrorism or organised crime – he was simply, sadly mentally unstable. However, proving that firearm categorisation has little to do with unlicensed firearm ownership, Monis was able to obtain a firearm that was prohibited under Howard’s National Firearms Agreement. Monis was a mentally unstable individual with an extensive criminal history. Thankfully, there is currently an investigation into why he was out on bail.
So why the focus on the Adler?
The Adler was released for pre-ordering by Nioa a few months ago using a very clever ad campaign – an over-the-top demonstration of the shotgun’s reliability (a sticking point with lever action shotguns of older designs). The ad went viral online and resulted in several thousand orders being placed by dealers across the country. The instant popularity of this shotgun attracted the attention of anti-gun lobbyists and the media. Ultimately, Abbott (or his advisors) saw an opportunity to turn the importation of these shotguns into a political issue.
The Adler Shotgun will potentially inject millions of dollars into the Australian firearms industry and, with that, the usual flow-on economic benefit to Australian rural communities from shooters traveling bush to enjoy their sport. The Liberals are supposed to be the “Open for Business Party”, but it seems political ideology goes out the window when there are opportunities for political gain. The potential benefits to Australia were ignored for political expedience.
Abbott delayed the importation 6 months. Why? Abbott needs to make a connection between Adler shotguns and National Security in order to create a public safety issue around firearms. He needed to validate the 6 month delay, so he had the Justice Minister make the connection between this lever action shotgun and terrorist activities, making the Adler a National Security issue. Once he has made that connection he can restrict firearm ownership and be seen as ‘Tough on Crime’, much like his predecessor.
So why attempt to Delay Importation?
Moving forward for Shooters
This is a very dangerous position for shooters, especially with the relatively low popularity of Abbott and the Liberal Party. The Adler may just be the start – testing the water to determine how popular firearm restrictions might be with the electorate. Abbott may become increasingly desperate and decide he needs as much support as he can get. Sweeping changes to firearms legislation coupled with exaggeration of other national security and public safety issues worked for John Howard, so why wouldn’t it work for Abbott? Abbott may not be content with just banning the Adler – he may go for ALL lever action firearms.
Shooters have several hurdles to overcome in the next few months. Police Ministers in each state are meeting to discuss the re-categorisation of lever action shotguns from category A to category C, preventing anyone from acquiring one for recreational shooting. We then have a federal election, where we need to avoid being used as pawns for political gain. There can only be two outcomes from this –
- Abbot will be shown up as all talk on firearms and do nothing, or
- We will see the Adler as the beginning of the next Buyback.
The problem is that, even though this shotgun is incredibly popular with over 9000 guns on back order, this represents around 1% of the shooting population. Meaning that 99% of the shooting population have not purchased one. This means that up to 99% of shooters will be thinking “this is not my issue”. Wrong!
In 1997 many shooters chose not to support the rallies against the gun Buyback because they believed that the changes wouldn’t affect them. Many competition pistol and rifle shooters and many hunters didn’t take action because they weren’t going to be affected by restrictions to semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. With the second round of buybacks, the 2002 pistol Buyback, many rifle and shotgun shooters chose to not get involved and support their fellow shooters because they don’t shoot pistols. This apathy provides politicians the perfect ‘divide and conquer’ opportunity they need.
With 99% of the shooting population potentially being in the ‘doesn’t affect me’ basket, shooters stand to lose. Only by every shooter getting involved can we hope to come out of this looming political storm unscathed.
Step 1. Ensure your local Federal Member of Parliament knows that Abbott’s attack on shooters will affect how you vote at the next Federal election.
Step 2. Ensure the Police Minister and your local State Member of Parliament know that any changes to the Firearms Act will affect your vote at the next state election.
Step 3. Ensure you are signed up to Beaton Firearms’ Newsletter so we can provide you with the relevant information as it comes available.
Zaine Beaton –
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Please keep in mind that these are Zaine’s personal comments – they are not a reflection of the opinions of any other staff or directors of Beaton Firearms.