States agree on gun control code
The states took a tentative step towards uniform gun laws yesterday when police ministers agreed to establish a national gun-control code on shooter licensing, mail-order sale, safety training and secure storage.
The Federal Government will also further restrict the importation of ammunition and machine pistols. But those attending the Australian Police Ministers Council yesterday left unresolved a national argument on the registration of all guns.
The federal Justice Minister, Mr Kerr, described yesterday's code decision as ``a step towards uniformity".
He said quick responses to shooting tragedies in different states in recent years had led to ad hoc, potentially conflicting standards. Now ministers had set up a mechanism to take a more considered, long-term view.
Mr Kerr said the latest statistics showed that in 1993, only about 70 of Australia's 526 firearm deaths involved violent crime.
The planned code was welcomed by Victoria's Police Minister, Mr McNamara, as the most significant improvement in decades, and one that would remedy Victorian concerns about the effect of more relaxed laws in other states.
``It's the hoons and lunatics that everyone wants to see firearms removed from," he said. ``We need to look at measures where we can more closely interact with mental health authorities so that we can identify persons who should be prohibited from obtaining firearms."
The NSW Police Minister, Mr Paul Whelan, did not attend the meeting and is awaiting a briefing. Mr Kerr was confident that NSW and the other absent states, Queensland and the Northern Territory, would agree with the proposals.
While all jurisdictions now follow the principle that firearms be securely stored, the provision was variously interpreted. A Western Australian model is being proposed in which guns must be kept in steel cabinets with separate lockable ammunition storage.
The Victorian Justice Department is to coordinate the development of the code, which will be put before the next Police Ministers' Council meeting in Tasmania in November.
The Commonwealth's tightening of imports will outlaw a variety of ammunition, including military ammunition greater than 12.7mm, tracer bullets, armour-piercing and flechette ammunition.
Imports of standard hollow-point and soft-nosed ammunition will still be allowed, but a prohibition on military-style weapons will be extended to pistols configured as semi-automatic machineguns.
The president of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia, Mr Ted Drane, said there were up to four million licensed shooters who ought to be consulted before changes were made to gun laws.
``We will never have national gun registration because that would mean that too many people (politicians) would lose their seats if they did in places like Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania," he said.
A spokesman said Victoria's chief commissioner of police, Mr Neil Comrie, said he supported uniform gun laws.
THE PROPOSED GUN CONTROL CODE.
Recognition of licensing, perhaps with a categorisation system.
Control of mail order firearm sales.
Firearm safety training standards.
Pistol registration methods.
Secure storage standards.
Regulations governing types of ammunition are to be tightened.