Page 2754 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008
firearms licence holders is quite strict and the penalties for noncompliance are quite severe. The use of examples is an important complement to plain English drafting practices and I encourage the responsible agency officers to consider using more examples in future drafting exercises.
I think the provisions dealing with paintball markers are a sensible solution to the problems generated by the current practice of defining them as prohibited firearms. It is appropriate that they be defined as firearms. As anyone who has seen the Eminem movie 8 Mile will attest, paintball markers can be used for all types of mischief. And as anyone who has played paintball can attest, at point blank range they really hurt and, if fired into the face or loaded with noxious substances, they could cause serious or fatal injuries.
I am aware that there are firearms enthusiasts who feel that the provisions of proposed section 4BH are too stringent and could result in people having their weapons taken off them, for reasons that are not logically connected with their holding a firearms licence. I have some sympathy with these concerns. By way of hypothetical example, it seems unfair that someone who is a target pistol enthusiast and who perhaps stores their guns in an armoury at a firing range should automatically lose their licence if they had 10 years ago been subjected to an interim protection order and recently had their drivers licence suspended. But that is the automatic effect of section 4BG (2) (b) (ii).
Another provision that can have a very unfair effect in some situations is the fact that one of the discretionary criteria in section 4BH is whether the licensee has given an undertaking to keep the peace and be of good behaviour in the past 10 years. Of course I am well aware, and agree with most domestic violence workers, that these types of undertakings are usually given in the context of domestic violence disputes where a person—and that is usually a male—has evidenced violent or threatening behaviour which is highly relevant to their unsuitability to hold a firearms licence. In these circumstances, I think the precautionary approach in this bill is very sensible.
However, I am also aware that there are occasions when these undertakings are given because a person wishes to resolve a domestic dispute with minimum fuss and emotional pain and with minimum negative impact on any children involved. My office has heard anecdotally of people who could have successfully resisted giving such an undertaking but who did so willingly because they did not realise that it could count against them holding a firearms licence.
I am not saying that these discretionary factors should not be assessed by the licensing authority and, in these circumstances, the police could be consulted to ascertain the exact circumstances in which the undertaking was made and a contemporary assessment made of its relevance to the licensee holding a firearms licence. It seems excessive to totally remove all elements of procedural fairness by not allowing the licensee to provide evidence that the risk factors are not relevant in their particular circumstances.
Of course these are fraught areas of regulatory control and there are obviously extremely serious potential consequences for failing to recognise danger signals as to