'Not on our watch': shooters' lobby frustrates tighter controls on guns
Some of the members on the Firearms Consultative Committee ... from left, Robert Borsak, Ken Finch, John Fitzgerald and Paul Duffy. Photo: Supplied
THE state government allowed a little-known committee stacked with representatives of the shooting and hunting fraternities to reject tighter gun controls proposed by police.
The Police Minister, Mike Gallacher, is using the 15-member Firearms Consultative Committee to steer the overhaul of the 2006 Firearms Act.
It includes the Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak, who replaced colleague Robert Brown, and members of the NSW Shooting Association and the pro-shooting NSW Game Council.
The NSW Rifle Association, the Amateur Pistol Association, the Antique Arms Collectors Society of Australia and the Sporting Shooters Association are also represented.
Mr Brown said the committee did not need gun-control advocates because ''they know nothing about firearms''.
The gun control debate has been reignited worldwide after the massacre of 20 children at a primary school in Connecticut.
Fairfax Media has obtained documents that show NSW police wanted new controls that would make it easier for authorities to revoke gun licences, refuse shooting permits, restrict shooting on rural land and tighten rules around gun storage.
It would also take away the right of people convicted of sexual offences to own a gun. Unlicensed shooters would also have to sign a waiver declaring they are not mentally disturbed each time they visit a shooting range. They only have to sign once under the current law.
However, the committee rejected the changes before the public was allowed a say on a new Firearms Regulation law. This action took place before the latest US massacre.
Diana Melham, who represents the Sporting Shooters on the committee, boasted on the association's website in October that the state government had been rolled on tighter gun laws.
''The NSW government had sought to impose major new restrictions on law-abiding firearm owners and dealerships, however members of the Firearms Consultative Committee stood firm and said 'not on our watch'.''
Mr Gallacher told Parliament on October 18 that the first draft would be ''substantially rewritten'' after feedback from the committee.
But a spokesman for Mr Gallacher said the government was still committed to reforms but they would be presented to the committee in a clearer, more concise format.
The committee held its first meeting under the O'Farrell government in May, around the same time as the Shooters and Fishers Party agreed to wave through the government's $3 billion privatisation of the state's electricity generators. The government also agreed to allow hunting in National Parks as part of the deal.
The Greens upper house MP David Shoebridge said the committee was ''another gift'' to the Shooters.
''The committee is stacked with the pro-gun lobby and gives a platform within government for the Shooters MPs to knock off any proposal to tighten gun controls,'' he said.
''It's a sad state of affairs when sensible gun reforms from the NSW Police, such as safer gun storage and improved inspection controls, are vetoed from day one by this pro-gun cabal.''
Mr Shoebridge raised concerns about the complexion of the committee in October, only to be howled down in Parliament by Mr Gallacher.
A spokesman for the minister said consideration was given to asking a member of the National Coalition for Gun Control to join the committee.
''However, as the NCGC only has two members, both individuals, with no mailing addresses - neither my office nor the ministry were able to confirm whether or not they were even a genuine organisation who should be represented on a high-level ministerial advisory body. If legitimate organisations with an interest in gun control wanted to join the FCC the minister would seriously consider it.''
Sam Lee, formerly of the NCGC, said the organisation had merged with Gun Control Australia and the police ministry had her contact details.
A spokesman for Mr Gallacher said the review would not consider any rollback of the 1996 National Agreement on Firearms or the 2002 National Handgun Agreement.