Page 2751 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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The issue of acoustic devices for firearms, or silencers, was raised. The bill, through its amendments to the Prohibited Weapons Act, includes silencers on the prohibited list. I note that the registrar has discretion to authorise ownership, possession and use. However, there may be cases in which existing owners may not, for one reason or another, either wish to or be eligible to retain their ownership of silencers. It may be worth considering a scheme similar to the gun buyback scheme of several years ago to enable owners of silencers to clear those items from their holdings. That is another matter that has been raised with me by the Sporting Shooters Association and several other groups.

Our community needs the highest level of safety and security possible when it comes to ownership, possession and the use of firearms and weapons. This level of safety and security, however, must also consider and cater to the circumstances in which people have a legitimate interest in firearms and weapons, as enthusiasts, collectors, sports people or professionals. On the whole, the bill goes a long way towards achieving that level of safety and security that the people of Canberra quite rightly expect and demand.

However, there are those few areas, minor as they may seem to some, where the bill falls a little short. We are proposing amendments; we will monitor some of the other areas. I am always concerned to make sure in this area of the law that we strike a balance between the legitimate rights of law-abiding citizens and the rights involved in protecting society. Generally, that balance has been maintained over the 10-year period since Mr Howard’s historic announcement after the Port Arthur massacre, but it is something we need to monitor. We should not penalise law-abiding citizens; we should make it as hard as possible for criminals. Whilst I am pleased to see the more serious nature of penalties proposed in this bill, I will wait to see what happens when it gets into the court system.

All in all, this bill contains some positive improvements. We will be proposing some amendments. I close by thanking the people in the gun registry, in the Australian Federal Police at the city police station. Since the tightening up from 1996 onwards, they have been exemplary in the way they have gone about ensuring that the law is abided by, in assisting legitimate owners of firearms to ensure that they abide by the law, giving advice, giving prompt service, invariably in a friendly manner. I get very few, if any, complaints about how the police have operated from sporting shooters and other legitimate owners of firearms in the territory. I want to place on record my appreciation for the work they do and the sensitivity they show to people who are legitimately engaged in this industry and in sports that involve the use of firearms.

MR MULCAHY (Molonglo) (5.39): Firearms are a very important and controversial subject and one which it is important to look at in detail. The Firearms Act seeks to regulate gun possession and restrict possession to licensed individuals who have some special reason for gun possession beyond self-protection.

The bill does not seek to change the basic stance and, therefore, there is no need at present to undertake a broad, philosophical inquiry into the pros and cons of gun control laws. Instead, the bill seeks to redraft many of the existing provisions in

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