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Never Enough: Australia’s Gun Controllers Aim for More Restrictions

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Article first appeared at NRA-ILA.

Further proving that gun control supporters aren’t satisfied with anything less than the elimination of private gun ownership, Australia’s anti-gun activists have their sights set on further restricting access to firearms. This time, the gun controllers have taken issue with the importation and private ownership of a lever-action shotgun, and that some Australian gun owners have chosen to accumulate a number of firearms.

Last summer, we alerted readers to the political battle over the importation of the Adler Arms A-110, a 12-gauge lever-action shotgun with a magazine capacity of seven rounds. In July, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott moved to halt importation of the shotgun. However, after some political horse-trading, pro-gun lawmakers secured a deal that would lift the ban after one year, with the restriction set to expire August 7.

In the meantime, Adler importer Robert Nioa has been importing a version of the A-110 with a four-round magazine capacity, which is not subject to the temporary ban. Additionally, some enterprising firearms dealers are offering magazine extensions for the currently available A-110 that increases the shotgun’s capacity. So far, Australians have acquired roughly 7,500 A-110s. Predictably, gun control advocates, in particular the Australian Greens party, are incensed that civilians have access to these firearms.

Americans might reasonably wonder how a lever-action shotgun has engendered such controversy Down Under. In 1996, following a high-profile shooting in Port Arthur, Tasmania, the Australian federal government significantly restricted gun ownership. Despite the fact that the Port Arthur shooter used semi-automatic rifles, in addition to banning semi-automatic rifles the government also prohibited ownership of semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns. Those in possession of these types of shotguns at the time of the ban were forced to turn their firearms into the government for predetermined compensation. Limited exceptions to the prohibition on semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns are available to those who can obtain a Category C license by proving they require the firearm for occupational purposes.

As the A-110 is neither a semi-automatic nor pump-action shotgun, it is available to those who possess the least restricted, Category A, firearms license. The process for acquiring a Category A firearms license is still onerous. For instance, the Victoria Category A license application contains probing questions about the applicant’s medical history. Further, prospective gun owners are required to have “genuine reason” for owning a firearm; Australia does not recognize self-defense as “genuine reason.” Even with a license, individuals must obtain an additional permit to acquire a firearm in order to obtain a gun, and this process includes a 28-day waiting period.

Anti-gun officials and activists contend that the lever-action A-110 is similar in function to pump-action shotguns and therefore should at the “very least” require a Category C license to own. Rather than offering evidence suggesting that these firearm are particularly prone to misuse, gun control advocates have relied on emotional pleas and mischaracterizations. Gun opponents and the media have mischaracterized the importation of the A-110 and the expiration of the ban as a “weaken[ing]” or “watering down” of Australia’s gun laws, despite the fact that Australia law does not ban lever-action shotguns. In one attempt to mislead the public, Australia’s Herald Sunreferred to the lever-action shotguns as “semi-automatic-style weapons.”

The anti-gun position was accurately summarized by Liberal Democrat Senator for New South Wales David Leyonhjelm last summer, when he noted, “These firearms are not dangerous, they aren’t used in crime, there’s nothing about them that warrants any special action… Nonetheless, there are some people who don’t like guns and they see this as the next area in which they can encroach.”

Aside from the ongoing shotgun debate, Australian gun controllers appear to have recently discovered that some gun owners enjoy the shooting sports and exercising their rights enough to maintain multiple firearms.  A website organized by NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge using public data, http://www.toomanyguns.org/, shows visitors the largest number of guns owned by a single person in various NSW zip codes. The Greens contend that a “loophole” in current law has allowed for gun owners to amass these “private arsenals.” The supposed loophole? That gun owners can obtain multiple firearms citing the same “genuine reason.” According to Shoebridge, “Anyone with five guns should be required to provide an exceptional reason to acquire more.”

In an effort to alarm the public, Shoebridge told a media outlet, “These private arsenals represent a real threat to community safety.” Further speculating, and placing blame for potential crimes on law-abiding gun owners rather than criminals, Shoebridge added, “They are honeypot targets for criminals who want to get their hands on potentially hundreds of guns in a single raid.” However, as Sen. Leyonhjelm pointed out in a recent press release, “there is no correlation between the number of guns in various regions and their illegal use.”

Further, Australian gun owners are already forced to contemplate potential thieves, as they are subject to strict rules regarding the storage of firearms. A document produced by the NSW Police Force outlines that state’s stringent requirements for storing even Category A firearms. It notes:

* When any firearm is not actually being used or carried, it must be stored in a locked receptacle of a type approved by the Commissioner of Police and that is constructed of hard wood or steel and not easily penetrable.

* If the receptacle weighs less than 150 kilograms when empty, it must be fixed in order to prevent its easy removal.

* The locks of such a receptacle must be of solid metal and be of a type approved by the Commissioner.

* Any ammunition for the firearm must be stored in a locked container of a type approved by the Commissioner. Ammunition may be kept in the receptacle with the firearms, but must be kept in a separate locked container within the receptacle.

Failure to meet these requirements is a serious offence with a fine of $2200 or 12 months imprisonment, or both.

Moreover, the item makes clear, “It is a condition on a license that the licensee allows inspection by police of the safe keeping and storage facilities for the firearm at a mutually agreed time…”

Americans should take careful note of the ongoing gun control battle in Australia, as U.S. politicians have repeatedly used Australia’s gun controls as a template for their own goals. During a speech on September 22, 2013, Barack Obama pointed to how the United Kingdom and Australia “mobilized and they changed” following high-profile shootings, while pressing for new gun controls. In a June 2014 interview, while advocating for more gun restrictions, Obama noted, “A couple of decades ago, Australia had a mass shooting… And Australia just said, well, that’s it, we’re not seeing that again. And basically imposed very severe, tough gun laws.”

More recently, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has endorsed Australia-style confiscation. During an October 2015 town hall meeting in Keene, N.H., Clinton was asked by an attendee about carrying out an Australia-style confiscation scheme in the U.S. In part of her response, Clinton stated, “I think it would be worth considering doing it on the national level if that could be arranged,” later adding, “certainly the Australian example is worth looking at.” To watch Clinton’s entire endorsement of Australian gun controls, see the video at this link: http://freebeacon.com/issues/clinton-australian-style-gun-control-worth-considering-for-u-s/

Obama and Clinton’s endorsements of Australia-style gun controls cuts through the typical anti-gun talking points to reveal their goal of eliminating the private ownership of entire classes of firearms. Of course, you can be sure that if U.S. gun controllers were ever able to enact a gun control regime similar to Australia’s current system, just like Australia’s gun control advocates, they would not cease their campaign against gun ownership until they achieve their goal of total civilian disarmament.

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