WA is set to become the first jurisdiction in the country to impose a limit on the number of firearms a licensed firearm holder can own, following extensive consultation with firearms owners, peak bodies, and safety advocates.
Eight licence types have been developed for specific users, including primary producers, competitive shooters, and recreational shooters, with storage requirements to be enhanced, with a government-funded buyback scheme to limit the financial impact on licence holders .
Limits will be linked to new licence types which have been tailored to reflect the specific needs of different firearm owners, and under the proposed new legislation, some licence types will be restricted to numerical limits.
Primary producers and firearm club/competition members can license up to 10 firearms, while recreational shooters will be permitted to own a maximum of no more than five.
Competitive shooters aspiring to represent the state at a national or international level can apply to the regulator for additional numbers.
The introduction of firearm limits is estimated to remove up to 13,000 guns from the WA community, despite restrictions having no impact on most licence holders.
Over the past five years, on average one firearm has been stolen in WA every day.
The overhaul of WA firearm laws were prompted following a police discovery, after a tip-off, of a cache of firearms including handguns, shotguns, military-grade weapons and a 50 calibre rifle — as well as more than 1000 rounds of ammunition, Illegal High Wycombe gun bunker man fined (Echo News, April 21).
Police Minister Paul Papalia said at the time while the arsenal of extra high-powered firearms were incorrectly stored in the bunker, the majority of firearms in the extensive cache were mostly legal and licensed.
“Unbelievably, the worst offence this individual has allegedly committed is failing to apply to build the bunker and underground shooting range,” Mr Papalia said.
More onerous controls on storage will dramatically reduce the likelihood of thefts. In addition to primary producer, other licence types include individual, trade, business, club, ranges, collector, and government.
Digital licences, supported by an online portal and upgraded IT system, will be implemented.
Modernising the licensing and registry of firearms will allow gun owners to have greater access to information and services while improving the quality of data gathered by regulators, giving officers real-time access to licence holder details when on the frontline.
A Firearms Bill consultation paper will be released for public review and comment this week and feedback on the proposed laws can be submitted to the WA Police website by November 14, with comments to be considered prior to the Bill being entered into Parliament early next year.
Premier Roger Cook said the proposed changes will make WA a safer place and will modernise the way police record, monitor and enforce our firearm laws.
“This is the largest overhaul of firearm laws in the State’s history. WA is the last jurisdiction to rewrite its firearm legislation since the Port Arthur massacre. Unfortunately, there have been a number of high-profile gun incidents during recent years.”
Police Minister Paul Papalia said if there are fewer firearms in the community, there are fewer opportunities for them to be used illegally.
“Since 2009, WA’s firearm numbers have increased 65 per cent to more than 360,000. New firearm limits will only impact around five per cent of individual licence holders but the changes will remove over 10,000 firearms from the community.
“Extensive consultation has been carried out during the drafting process. Police have held more than 100 meetings with individuals, relevant stakeholders, and interested parties.
“In addition to the proposed legislative changes, we have already stripped notorious crime figures and serious domestic violence offenders of their firearms and removed 280 unnecessarily high-powered guns from the community.”
Police Commissioner Col Blanch said his job and the job of his officers was to keep the community safe, and illicit firearms pose a significant risk to the safety of the community and officers, especially when in the hands of serious and organised crime groups.
“We know that licensed firearms can quickly become illicit firearms and be traded in the underworld. That is why it is so important that we make sure that only firearms that need to be in the community remain licensed, and that they are stored and secured appropriately by their owners.”