The issue of guns burst into the Australian political discourse this week unexpectedly, and it is mighty refreshing that Australia’s restrictive gun laws are now at least being debated by our politicians and media. It is thanks to Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm that we have had this discussion this week who is a lifelong champion of gun rights and has not been afraid to stand up for gun owners during his time in Senate. The discussion was the result of Leyonhjelm feeling rightly duded by the Liberal government after they extended indefinitely the ban on the import of the Adler lever action 7 barrel shotgun. The ban was only meant to last a year while the National Firearms Agreement was being reviewed. Leyonhjelm had this guarantee from Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in return for Leyonhjelm rejection of an amendment by Labor to water down the Migration Act.
Leyonhjelm told the media this week “When I protested, I was told by Minister Keenan ‘we never intended to allow that into the country anyway’ ‘’ basically stating that he’d be screwed. Leyonhjelm has now stated that unless the ban is lifted he will not support the government on some of their key legislative goals including the restoring of Australian Building and Construction Commission. Any talk of wanting to protect the rights and freedoms of gun owners in Australia automatically enrages the gun control advocates. Labor thought they could score some cheap political points this week accusing the government of wanting to relax the National Firearms Agreement which was set up by the Howard government in 1996 which sets out categories of firearms and how heavily they are restricted.
Because the Adler is a lever action shotgun which is a very old fashioned type of firearm that has been around for over a hundred years, it should logically be classified as category A which is the least restrictive category. But because the firearm has been described as being able to be fired relatively quickly, that in itself is a subjective assessment the Alder should be put in the more restrictive category C or D. The critics of the Alder are mainly people who have never actually fired a rifle, guns to them in general look scary and they are the type of people who could ban all guns if they could. Firearms in Australia can hold up to a ten capacity magazine so is not even at the higher capacity end of firearms. But because it is a new firearm and gun control groups are always looking for every opportunity to stop people owning guns, banning the Adler has been in their sights. They claim that the availability of this firearm will magically lead to string of mass shootings and more terrorist attacks which is an absurd assumption to make.
Malcolm Turnbull in an effort to hose down the Opposition’s and gun control advocates attacks said in Parliament the ban was set in stone and that the government had no plans to change the National Firearms Agreement. In the past one would expect that any hope of reforming Australia’s gun laws to allow for greater freedom for firearm owners had been quashed. However there was a minor backbench revolt this week on Turnbull’s flat out refusal to overturn the ban. Federal Nationals MPs Mark Coulton, John Williams and Bridget McKenzie believe the Alder is useful for farmers culling feral animals and support lifting the ban. They were joined by Federal Liberal MP Ian Goodenough and NSW Nationals Deputy Premier Troy Grant who wants the Alder to be classified as nothing below category B. They also decried Labor’s demonization of law abiding firearm owners stating that the focus of any government with regard to guns should be on cracking down on the import of illegal firearms and those used in crimes.
This is a significant development, firearm owners are used to losing every battle in Australia. Although they look like losing this one as well at least there are politicians from major parties and a key crossbench Senator willing to stand up for law abiding firearm owners who use them for sport, recreation and farming. There was some semblance of debate on the issue rather than just a universal condemnation of firearm owners. Media commentator Paul Murray also called for the Adler ban to be lifted and rightly pointed out that city folk hardly had any idea about why firearms are necessary. Tony Abbott tried to score some points against Malcolm Turnbull by decrying any relaxing of gun laws to allow high powered firearms into Australia. This is extremely foolish of him as he is alienating a large segment of his natural conservative voter base and fellow MPs, not to mention he was also exposed for falsely claiming he never signed off on the original Adler deal with Leyonhjelm. He has been widely condemned for this cheap attempt to hoodwink the media in an effort to destabilize Turnbull.
Do not get me wrong, there is still a long way to go winding back the restrictions that have been placed on the rights of firearm owners over the past 20 years. We still have no right to self-defence with a firearm and lifting the ban on semi-automatics is still very far away. But this week should be seen as progress and the beginning of the fightback against the attack on our right to bear arms. A fantastic grassroots organisation Firearm Owners United has experienced rapid growth over the past year on social media from a new generation of firearm enthusiasts. The battle should never be seen as lost, this week has shown an opening and it should encourage firearm owners to continue their campaign for greater rights to our politicians and also educating the public about why firearms are important and dispelling many of the lies and hysteria. A conversation was started, let’s not let it fade away.