In a hasty move, the Tasmanian Police Commissioner announced the immediate cancellation of Exemption No. 4 under the Firearms Act 1996, affecting the ability of people to possess antique firearms.
In a letter sent to SIFA on the 18th of January, the Commissioner advised that effective from the same date, owners of antique firearms were no longer authorised to possess these items and will need to do one of the following:
- Apply for a time limited individual exemption (to continue to possess these firearms in compliant firearms storage for a limited time whilst applying for a suitable firearms licence and registration),
- Apply for a firearms licence, or licence upgrade now (however, this will require immediate surrender of the firearms to a licenced dealer during the process),
- Sell the firearm through a licensed firearms dealer; or
- Surrender the firearm to police for destruction (Tasmania has an ongoing firearms amnesty).
The approach taken by Tasmania Police has raised significant concerns amongst SIFA and industry stakeholders over the lack of any prior advice or consultation on the decision, as well as the insufficient notice period on the decision.
With the cancellation taking immediate effect, firearm enthusiasts and collectors who are in possession of antique firearms must act immediately to become compliant with the new stringent licensing, registration, and storage provisions now in place.
The announcement comes as a complete surprise to those at the forefront of the Tasmanian shooting industry, as Police Minister Felix Ellis and Police Commissioner Donna Adams failed to consult or provide any advance warning on the changes, leaving stakeholders trying to understand the reasons for such an impetuous decision.
SIFA CEO James Walsh said “all around Australia, Ministers and their Police Forces actively engage with our industry and give us the courtesy to consult on issues that will affect our industry. However, in this instance, the Police Commissioner and Police Minister have taken an entirely arbitrary approach, imposing policy without even advising industry this change was coming”.
SIFA has written to the Police Minister and Police Commissioner asking them to explain their decision and provide the evidence to demonstrate why this exemption needed to be cancelled so hastily and without industry consultation.
“The commissioner asserts that these changes are aimed at enhancing community safety, ensuring antique firearms are subject to the same regulations as other types of firearms, however, they have provided no evidence, research or other information as to why this change was needed, and why it was implemented without consultation” Mr Walsh said.
Of further concern is the added expense of this policy change to those in possession of antique firearms, who now immediately have to spend potentially thousands of dollars in gun safes, licensing and permit fees, in order to become compliant with the new regime, leading SIFA to call on Minister Ellis to act and set aside licensing and permit fees for those who are affected.
“Given that this decision will now affect law-abiding people, who have done nothing wrong and through no fault of their own, will be out of pocket due to these changes, SIFA has formally requested that firearms license application and permit to acquire application fees are waived for those who are affected by this hasty decision” Mr Walsh Said.
As the industry, collectors and enthusiasts grapple with the swift implementation of these changes, SIFA is urging the government to prioritise open communication and consultation to ensure a smoother transition and adequately address concerns raised as a result.