Police Policy Overriding Public Interest
The Western Australian Firearm Regulations, Schedule 3: Firearm Categories
7 . Category D firearms
D1 a self loading centre fire rifle designed or adapted for military purposes or a firearm that substantially duplicates such a firearm in design, function, or appearance
8 . Genuine need test for category D
To satisfy the genuine need test for category D the applicant must satisfy the Commissioner that the firearm is required for Commonwealth or State government purposes.
Category D firearms are essentially prohibited in Western Australia for the recreational market. However, Police Licensing Services (PLS) have given special dispensation for firearm dealers to be in the possession of a category D firearms.
My earliest memory of such an instance is not long after I started in the trade – I visited Doug Barnes from Western Gunsmiths to see several M4 style rifles hanging up in his repair area with paint drying on the firearms. They were apparently owned by the WA Police Tactical Response Group and Doug was doing modifications to them. He had special permission to be in possession of those firearms.
In the last couple of years, we have had several Category D firearms through our hands, all with special dispensation by the PLS and all of them were being rendered inoperable. The average person cannot own a working category D firearm in the Western Australia, but we can have a rendered category D firearm. The firearms come into our stock, are rendered on our Manufacturers license and all the relevant details of the transaction are recorded and sent to PLS.
I recently completed a job for a client – we rendered and sectionalized an FN-49 semi-automatic rifle that was sent to us from the Eastern states. The gun is entirely inoperable now and makes an excellent display piece – all the internals of the mechanism can be seen through the side of the rifle. Even a fired bullet can be seen in the barrel. It’s impressive, educational and a marvel of engineering and machining skill.
I requested that I be allowed to render another firearm so I could have one on the shelf to sell. I received a phone call from PLS saying that they would no longer allow me to have firearms sent to me. I asked for it in writing, which they provided.
“… it was determined it was not in the public interest to allow this practice. The transportation of Category D firearms across Australia and different jurisdictions poses a risk to public safety that need not occur.
However, we have no objection to rendering currently licensed Cat D firearms or unlicensed Cat D firearms where they have been surrendered to Police.”
Several key issues can be identified in this response;
- Category D firearms in Western Australia
- Risk to Public Safety
- Not in the Public Interest
For anyone who isn’t aware, PLS has imposed heavily restrictive policy on the movement of firearms within Western Australia. As a result, most freight companies are unable to move firearms within the state – only a select few who have been approved under the onerous conditions imposed by PLS are legally allowed to transport firearms.
PLS have claimed that transporting firearms poses an additional risk to public safety. Yet the only organisations that are permitted to move firearms are the transport companies they approved. They have no confidence that the companies they approve under their transport requirements can provide safe, reliable services.
- Category D firearms in Western Australia
Providing permission for me to render category D firearms that are already in Western Australia, licensed or unlicensed, is an acknowledgement by PLS that category D firearms exist in Western Australian society. An unlicensed category D firearm poses a significant risk to public safety and, as such, PLS would be unwise to discourage them being rendered inoperable. But a category D firearm that is not in Western Australia does not pose a public risk to Western Australians. It’s outside their jurisdiction – it’s not their problem.
Further proof of this attitude of “someone else’s problem” is FLS allowing me to render a category D so long as it’s already in Western Australia. So if a Category D firearm is found in Karratha or Port Hedland it can be transported to me and rendered, but one found in Adelaide cannot.
- Risk to public safety
PLS are claiming that transporting firearms is a risk to public safety. More so than the alternative – unwanted category D firearms remaining in society.
While a licensed category D firearm poses little risk to public safety, to suggest that there is an insignificant risk of the firearm being stolen from the original owner and a significant risk in it being stolen in transit is an extremely long bow to draw. Further, it would be sensible to say the removal of an unlicensed firearm from society, category D or otherwise, would far outweigh the risk involved in transporting it. Prisoners escape during transit. Confiscated drugs go missing during transit. But we move drugs and we move prisoners because it results in better public safety.
- Not in the Public Interest
It has only been a couple of months since the National Firearms Amnesty was implemented to remove unlicensed and unwanted firearms from the community. To argue that removing firearms from the community is not in the public’s interest is to argue that the National Firearm Amnesty, or the ongoing state firearm amnesty, is not in the public interest. There is no argument that removing unwanted firearms from society is not in the public’s interest.
So, to surmise the arguments PLS have put forward to end the practice of Category D firearms outside the state being rendered;
- PLS have no faith the freight companies they personally approve to move firearms.
- Category D firearms are in society, licensed and unlicensed, and can be a significant risk to public safety.
- PLS’s interest for public safety ends where their authority ends – at the border.
- PLS use the argument of ‘Public Interest’ without concern for what is in the interest of the public.
Questions need to be asked relating to the above points.
1. Why does a freight approval process for transporting firearms in Western Australia exist that those responsible for the invention and administration of have no confidence in?
2. Do FLS’s responsibilities for public safety extend outside the state?
3. How is it not in the public interest to remove unwanted firearms from circulation?
These questions will be forwarded through to the Police Minister. I’ll post the response if I receive one.
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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.