The Target is on Gun Control Once More By John Steele
The push is on to establish a National Firearms Register, following the tragic murder of two police officers. For the legacy media it seems that if such a register existed, where police in any Australian state could access via the tap of a few computer keys, all the firearms details about any firearms owner in any state, terrible crimes like this would be prevented. That point is delusional, as while such a register, to cost a cool $ 200 million plus, would give information, that X owns a firearm, so what? How exactly would that help, since surely police tactics would assume that any suspect was armed anyway?
I note in particular the spin given in the article: “three religious extremists, none of whom were legally allowed to possess the arsenal of high-powered weapons and stockpile of ammunition they had hoarded on the remote property, more than 300km west of Brisbane. Shooter Nathaniel Train’s Queensland gun licence had been suspended four months earlier, and his brother, Gareth Train, and Gareth’s wife, Stacey Train, were not licensed to own or shoot firearms at all.” So, the criminals were not in lawful possession of firearms. Well, shouldn’t police had removed the guns from them sooner, taking all precautions of course, that is going fully armed to the premises, with plenty of backup officers? Nothing wrong with that, it is just sound situational awareness.
As I see it, this is a tactics issue not something to be solved by data on a computer, data which puts every Australian on a data base that could in principle be hacked. Sure, data can be hacked on state sites, but we need to limit the available data for hackers, not make it irresisitible. What could prevent the PLA of communist China hacking the data base and posting all the information? It would be a security risk for gun owners. People with legally owned pistols could get targeted for home invasion by criminals eager to get pistols.
As for police verifying information, at present all that is required is one phone call from one state police force to the next taking less than a few minutes. It is hardly a problem, and $ 200 million need not be spent.
The loss of police lives is tragic, but the solution is not more oppression of legal gun owners, but more resources for police staff, so that police are not under-manned when dealing with situations leading to the tragic death of the officers. We have an emotional issue here that the gun control lobby are active.
I suggest all concerned contact one’s local MP, and independent pollies and alternative parties like One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts:
“The renewed push to establish a national firearms register in the wake of the cold-blooded murder of two police officers and a neighbour has stalled, with a funding dispute between Canberra and the states and territories delaying the vital reforms.
A new national gun registration system – which The Australian can reveal would cost more than $200m and would take a minimum of four years to become operational – has been agreed to in principle by the nation’s police ministers.
Nearly a year after constables Matthew Arnold and Rachel McCrow and good Samaritan Alan Dare were gunned down at Wieambilla in southern Queensland, bureaucratic inertia and a fight over funding has stalled the process, with smaller jurisdictions baulking at the cost, and states and territories refusing to make their gun laws nationally consistent.
This is despite the urgent calls for reform after the shooting on December 12 by three religious extremists, none of whom were legally allowed to possess the arsenal of high-powered weapons and stockpile of ammunition they had hoarded on the remote property, more than 300km west of Brisbane. Shooter Nathaniel Train’s Queensland gun licence had been suspended four months earlier, and his brother, Gareth Train, and Gareth’s wife, Stacey Train, were not licensed to own or shoot firearms at all.
On the day they were murdered, the Queensland police officers were pursuing a NSW missing person report for Nathaniel Train and were trying to serve him with an arrest warrant.
The unvaccinated former school principal had illegally entered the state in December 2021 in a breach of Covid restrictions, unlawfully dumping two Queensland-registered firearms when his vehicle became bogged.
Without a national firearms register – first agreed to in the National Firearms Agreement after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre – police officers across Australia are still unable to instantly access firearms records from other jurisdictions, leaving them exposed and without crucial information, such as whether someone has a gun licence or owns weapons.
And gun dealers cannot easily verify if a buyer’s licence is valid or if it has been suspended or cancelled, particularly if the permit was issued in another state.
Another policeman, Brevet Sergeant Jason Doig, 53, was shot dead in South Australia last week. It has not yet been revealed if the suspected shooter, Jadyn Stimson, 26, was a licensed gun owner, or if the gun used was a registered firearm.
Queensland and national police union boss Ian Leavers, federal police union head Alex Caruana, Gun Control Australia president Tim Quinn and leading gun control advocate Philip Alpers all called for jurisdictions to come together and agree to the national register.
Shooters Union president Graham Park and Shooting Industry Foundation of Australia chief executive James Walsh also gave cautious endorsement of a new national firearms registry, but warned it would be useless without proper industry consultation and an overhaul of individual databases.
A months-long investigation by The Australian has uncovered the funding fight, in which the smaller jurisdictions of Tasmania, the Northern Territory, South Australia and the ACT argue they cannot afford to upgrade their own paper-based firearms registries to be compatible with a national digital database.
West Australian Police Minister Paul Papalia said his state would spend tens of millions of dollars upgrading and digitising its entire registry by the end of next year, to enable its nation-leading firearm reforms and compatibility with a national register.
Mr Papalia said he agreed with the smaller jurisdictions that the federal government should pay for them to participate.
“If you want to get a system up and running, and you want to do it as soon as possible, they perhaps need to be funded by the federal government because they are essential. If you want a national firearms registry, it’s got to be national,” Mr Papalia said.
The Albanese government is offering to pay only for a federal technology upgrade, despite the Prime Minister and national cabinet committing to the national register in February, and police ministers agreeing on options in June.
Queensland Coroner Terry Ryan is examining whether poor communication between interstate police services contributed to the tragedy, and how Nathaniel Train was able to buy ammunition despite his gun licence being suspended in August last year.
While the fact his licence had been suspended would have been known to the officers who went to the Wieambilla property, it was not known in which state his guns were located, or how many firearms he still possessed.
The Australian’s special investigation can also reveal that despite the strong words from politicians in the aftermath of the shootings, Australia’s gun laws remain hopelessly inconsistent, with guns deemed illegal in some states, such as armour-piercing sniper rifles, able to be used legally elsewhere in the country.
No state or territory complies fully with the National Firearms Agreement. So many loopholes exist in the legislation that police warn a person could build an entire unregistered gun by legally buying weapon parts in different states, and assembling those parts themselves.
Queensland is the only state that totally bans silencers, while NSW allows the devices for sporting and recreational shooters.
South Australia, Queensland, Victoria and Northern Territory now allow possession of a handgun or revolver in the first six months of obtaining a licence.
NSW and Victoria waive the mandatory 28-day cooling off period for people obtaining their second and subsequent permits to acquire a gun, while Tasmania allows a 14-day cooling-off period for second and subsequent permits to acquire a gun.
Tasmania, the scene of the Port Arthur massacre, is still using paper applications for licence and gun registrations, while it can take weeks for new legal gun purchases to be uploaded into Queensland’s paper-based state firearm registry.
The ACT and the NT are also reliant on paper forms, and no state or territory’s gun register is fully digitised, posing a major hurdle to the development of a real-time national register.
Ian Leavers, president of the Queensland Police Union, made an emotional plea for Mr Albanese to intervene, saying the Prime Minister had spoken to him in the minutes before the funerals of the two constables, and shared his passion for making a national gun register work.
“This rocked the nation like never before,’’ he said of the premeditated attack.
“I don’t want there to be another death which could have been prevented when this information could have been available when it wasn’t … because of the bureaucratic nature of … multiple systems which simply don’t talk to each other.”
Standing at the gate of the block where the Train family carried out the domestic terrorist attack, Mr Leavers urged the “commissioners and bureaucrats’’ stalling over firearm reform to remember the collective grief felt by the nation after the shooting.
“I think what we need to get back to … is that gut-wrenching, sickening feeling,’’ said Mr Leavers, who is also the president of the 66,000-strong Police Federation of Australia.
“People in this local community who were coming up to us were in tears, and they were hurting, as well as people from all over Queensland, and it was spread across the nation.
“That is why we can’t let go of our feelings (from) that point in time and that momentum has just got to continue … to effect positive change into the future.
“It may need some good strong leadership from the Prime Minister to make this happen because the states need to listen and get on board with this, because every day that it goes on they’re putting lives at risk.’’
Mr Leavers said he was sick of the delays and wanted the register “yesterday”.
Mr Albanese and federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus did not respond to questions.
In June, police ministers told national cabinet a national registry would cost more than $200m, which would include the cost of upgrading the technology of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission’s National Criminal Intelligence System and Australian Firearms Information Network. Currently, the AFIN is not a complete weapons registry, does not operate in real time, does not track firearm owners and is hampered by the inconsistency of state and territory information.
The majority of the $200m estimated cost is the requirement for all states and territories to upgrade their individual weapons databases to be able to plug into the national registry.
But the federal government has only agreed to pay for the technological upgrade to the ACIC’s databases, which could be funded from the statutory authority’s own “special account”, which already contains about $135m in income from national policing checks.
It will now be up to the Council on Federal Financial Relations, chaired by Treasurer Jim Chalmers with all state and territory treasurers as members, to sort out who pays for what.
A national firearms register would include technical details, the identity of licence -holders, their history of firearm ownership and what guns they possess.
Crucially, it would require all jurisdictions to have nationally consistent definitions for firearms and ammunition.
The ongoing problems were reinforced earlier this month when it was revealed the NSW Firearms Registry issued a licence last year to Jack O’Rourke, without realising he was former al-Qa’ida sympathiser Joseph “Jihad Jack” Thomas, who was charged with terrorism offences after travelling to Pakistan for military training.
Two weeks after the licence was granted a NSW counter-terrorism officer warned the registry of O’Rourke’s criminal history; his licence was suspended the next day and officially revoked on February 20. He hadn’t disclosed his criminal history on an online application form, and revealed only one of his multiple aliases.
SIFA CEO Mr Walsh warned that most state and territory registries were “under-resourced, inefficient and lacked the modern systems required to integrate to a national registry”. Only NSW had properly modernised its system.
“Jurisdictions must prioritise the update of their systems and the auditing and cleansing (of) their firearms data in the first instance, otherwise a national registry would only contain the inaccurate data held by some registries,” he said.
“In order for any national registry initiative to be successful, fit for purpose and embraced by the Australian shooting industry, it must take into consideration the needs and requirements of our industry.
“SIFA has been pushing for open and transparent consultation with the commonwealth A-G’s department on any registry initiative and to date we have been ignored.”
Mr Leavers urged all jurisdictions to compromise to make a national register work.
“You’ve got to compromise to get to a position and not dig your head into the sand and say ‘we’ve got the best system, we’ve got the best legislation’, because meanwhile, nothing ever happens.
“And I’m sick of that. I want it yesterday.’’
He said he had spoken to the families of constables Arnold and McCrow as part of his campaign for a national register, and they were “100 per cent behind me on this”. “I think this can be a legacy for Matthew, Rachel and Alan as we move into the future,’’ he said.