Page 2752 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008

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a more simple and clear manner and seeks to fix up some loopholes in the previous legislation that led to administrative and regulatory problems.

The bill deals with possession regulations pertaining to a wide range of circumstances, including target shooting, recreational hunting, primary production and paintball activities. In the ACT we do not have to deal as much with matters of primary production as in other jurisdictions, though it is important for legislation on the topic be broad enough to deal with these contingencies.

The bill also makes a number of other changes to ACT firearms legislation, including reclassification of firearms, new licensing criteria and regulation criteria. The bill reclassifies firearms into “prohibited firearms” and simply “firearms”. The bill removes the distinction between prohibited pistols and other prohibited firearms. The bill also seeks to simplify the definition provisions to make it easier to classify firearms into the relevant classification under the act.

Whether or not this reclassification leads to a simpler system is a matter of judgement for those applying the act, and I do not venture to guess whether the new classification will be simpler to apply. However, since the bill has been drafted in consultation with the Firearms Consultative Committee and the Department of Justice and Community Safety, I am satisfied that the simplified classifications are likely to be sensible.

The bill redrafts and amends the criteria for the “suitable person” test that is applied with respect to firearm regulation. The bill adds further discretionary criteria to this test, based on criminal intelligence or information held by law enforcement agencies. This criterion allows the registrar to take account of intelligence and criminal reports under the act.

The ACT is currently the only jurisdiction in Australia that does not provide criteria based on criminal intelligence. The explanatory statement notes the Australian Institute of Criminology’s finding that the lack of provision for criminal intelligence information to be taken into account in the ACT hampers the ability of police to utilise intelligence information and reduces the capacity of the licensing authority to effectively regulate firearms.

The bill also makes amendments to the provisions pertaining to unregulated firearms. Rather than attempting to prescribe prohibited firearms as they appear, the bill imposes a general prohibition on unregulated firearms. The previous practices led to difficulties, I am advised, waste of time and expense in keeping abreast of new types of firearms as well as makeshift or backyard firearms. This will simplify the regulation of firearms and should ensure that firearms are dealt with in a consistent manner rather than on an ad hoc basis.

One of the more important aspects of this bill to the Canberra business and sporting community is the changes to the regulation of the paintball industry. The bill deals specifically and explicitly with the paintball industry to ensure that the firearms regulation does not unintentionally derogate from this activity. This is a worthwhile initiative. The paintball industry has been adversely affected by firearms regulation in the past as many of their paintball guns have been classified with prohibited firearms.

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