Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Petition to repeal s.6B Firearms Act

A few weeks back I posted this article about the tragic death of Lalin Fernando, who was killed by his daughter Shamin.

Shamin had been suffering with severe mental illness, which caused her to believe that she had to kill her father.  She joined a gun club, and there obtained a pistol and ammunition, despite not having a license.  She took these out of the gun club, and back home, where she used the skills she had practiced at the gun club to shoot her father.

Is it difficult to fathom how someone in such a state of mind could so easily do this.

But they can. The law as it presently stands actually allows a person to attend a gun club, and shoot pistols, without having had any training, without any need to be licensed to handle a gun, and without any background check at all.

The relevant provision is s.6B Firearms Act (NSW), an amendment which was introduced by the Shooters and Fishers Party in 2008, and supported by the NSW Labor government.

6B Exemption for unlicensed persons shooting on approved ranges and for persons undertaking firearms safety training courses

(1) A person is exempt from any requirement under this Act to be authorised by a licence or permit to possess or use a firearm (other than a prohibited firearm) if the person possesses or uses the firearm only:
(a) at a shooting range approved by the Commissioner in accordance with the regulations and while under the direct supervision of a person who is authorised by a licence to possess or use a firearm of that kind, or
(b) while participating in a firearms safety training course approved by the Commissioner in accordance with the regulations and while under the direct supervision of a firearms instructor approved by the Commissioner in accordance with the regulations.
(2) Any such exemption from the requirement to be authorised by a licence or permit to possess or use a firearm is subject to the requirements prescribed by the regulations.
(3) This section does not apply in relation to a person who is under the age of 12 years.
One would think that the exemption would be subject to stringent requirements, but turn to the regulations and you'll find the only requirement is that a person fill out a questionnaire and not answer 'yes' to questions like "are you currently suffering from any mental illness or other disorder that may prevent you from using a firearm safely?"

That and being supervised at all times by a licensed shooter, who must carry the weapon to and from the unlicensed self-declared sane person. Except when they're not supervising and instead leaving the weapon with the self-declared sane person to take home. And except when they are selling ammunition to the same person.

All of this occurred in the case of Shamin Fernando, who only had to lie about having a mental illness in order to legally practice killing her father, and then be in a position to walk out of the club with a gun.

The Fernando family have been campaigning to have s.6B Firearms Act (NSW) repealed. After this tragedy, you might question the case for the retention of the provision and its associated regulations in their current form.

A petition to the Police Minister, Michael Gallacher, has been set up on change.org, urging the government to repeal this law. If you would like your support for the repeal to be registered, please consider adding your name to the petition.

Without this provision in its current form, a severely mentally ill person could not legally get their hands on a firearm. A good idea, you might think.

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