David McCarthy (centre) says competition shooters should be able to compete internationally, but cannot, due to gun laws. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Tasmanian sporting shooters say they are confident the State Government will deliver its election promise to consider allowing them to use semi-automatic .22 calibre rifles for competition shooting events, firearms banned under laws introduced after the Port Arthur massacre.
But it would only be legal for the shooters to use rifles if the National Firearms Agreement is changed, or if Tasmania walks away from fully honouring the deal, which was reached following the mass shooting event in 1996 in which 35 people were murdered.
The shooters say without the rifles, they stand no chance of winning a world championship.
Andrew Judd displays a .22 calibre semi-automatic round (left) and a military-style, semi-automatic round. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
South Australian David McCarthy is the best in Australia and just won a national championship held at Copping near Hobart.
He competed internationally last year and was coming sixth in the world, but has not been able to win at the International Gallery Rifle Federation world cup because he can only shoot in half of the matches as he requires a semi-automatic .22 calibre rifle to compete in all events.
“It would be great for Australia, to be able to go over on the world stage and show the rest of the world what we’re made of,” McCarthy said.
The Tasmanian Liberals’ gun policy became public the day before the March election. (Pixabay)
Following public outrage over the election promise, which came to light on the day before the state poll in March, the Liberals scrapped the changes, with Premier Will Hodgman saying the Government, “understood there are deeply held concerns about public safety, and in an area as important to Tasmanians as gun laws, public confidence in our laws is essential”.
But changes to the laws are still a chance, with the Government holding an inquiry into the laws, building shooters’ hopes the promises will be kept.
The Tasmanian Government has also promised the possibility of expanding the “reason to own” a category C firearm to include competition shooting, as occurs for clay target shooters, for recognised competition shooting events in Australia.
Tasmanian president of the Sporting Shooters Association Andrew Judd said he was confident the Tasmanian Government would keep the promises it made to shooters.
“I still believe that we have a good chance to be able to put forward some commonsense arguments,” Mr Judd said, adding his members were not calling for “military-style” guns.
“What’s not been addressed is if we are allowed category C firearms, it will actually enhance most people’s storage facilities, which will also improve public safety.”
Andrew Judd says competition shooters do not want “military-style” firearms. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Gun Control Australia’s Roland Brown said shooters would just have to keep missing out on semi-automatic rifle competitions, as he does not think the National Firearms Agreement should change or be breached.
“They’re dangerous weapons, they have a rapid-fire capacity and they were banned in 1996 because of their threat to the community,” he said.
“Nothing has changed.”
Inquiry will ‘strike right balance’
Mr Hodgman has said he is committed to, “not water down our gun laws, not to do anything that would breach the National Firearms Agreement, to ensure that lawful gun owners are able to use their weapons in a safe way”.
“That’s what we are seeking to achieve here … through this inquiry and proper consultation and involvement of all interested parties we will arrive at a point that strikes the right balance,” the Premier said.
Mr Browne said he was suspicious of the Government’s agenda.
“The Premier is saying they are not going to breach the National Firearms Agreement, but my concern is they are trying to get the states and Commonwealth to amend that agreement and that is one of the components in the letter that went out before the March 2018 election.”
The Tasmanian Parliament’s Lower House committee will finish its report by March next year.
The Government has the numbers to get gun law changes through the Lower House, but the independent-dominated Upper House will have the final say.