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Australia Today

Tasmania’s Government Wants To Relax Gun Laws

"It will take Tasmania back to the days where we had a reputation as the shooting capital of Australia.”

Over the past two decades, Australia has been held as a golden example when it comes to countries that take gun control seriously. Following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded, the Liberal Party immediately took action to restrict the availability of guns and implement a massive buyback scheme. As ABC’s Fact Check reported last year, afterwards “the annual rate of gun deaths fell from 2.9 per 100,000 in 1996 to 0.9 per 100,000 in 2016.”


But now, 22 years later, in a disturbingly ironic twist, Tasmania’s Liberal government has promised to relax those laws. A proposal that was shared with firearms consultation groups weeks ago but never released publically outlines changes specifically focused on gun use on farms.

These changes include extending the gun licence duration from five to ten years and creating a new category that would let “specialist” — it’s unclear what that actually means — use previously banned firearms if they have a “lawful reason”. They also plan to offer infringement notices for small breaches of gun storage rules, over the current stance of revoking weapons.

The changes, as well as the perceived secrecy around them, have attracted criticism that the party has been purposefully elusive to avoid wider scrutiny and backlash.

Farmers have already come out in support of the changes, which they see as practical and argue would allow them to better cull and control their stock.

But speaking to The Australian, Roland Browne, the vice-chairman of Gun Control Australia, warned that: “This policy will see an increase in the sales of Category C weapons, silencers and ammunition; it will take Tasmania back to the days where we had a reputation as the shooting capital of Australia.”

Local Greens candidate Fraser Brindley agreed, reasoning that the move is less about practicalities and more a grab for votes. “The Liberals’ firearms policy is designed to win votes at the expense of community safety, and the fact that they have cooked it up behind closed doors shows contempt for the Tasmanian public,” Brindley told The Australian.

In response, Tasmania premier Will Hodgman has stood by the plan. Speaking to ABC Radio he stressed that he was “very aware of the sensitivities around these issues,” and sought to “find an appropriate balance — one which supports our families that work in the rural sector, but which is not inconsistent with national gun laws."

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