National Firearms Non-Agreement: Should kids have 'permits', 'licences' or no guns at all?

National Firearms Non-Agreement: Should kids have 'permits', 'licences' or no guns at all?

National Firearms Non-Agreement: Should kids have 'permits', 'licences' or no guns at all?

Updated 12 October 2017, 16:15 AEDT

State governments have promised to implement tough gun controls, but they are not prepared to say when, and they all seem to disagree about what that actually means.

Not one state government is prepared to say when it will fully comply with post-Port Arthur reforms, according to an ABC survey of state and territory ministers.

Instead many have disagreed with a report from University of Sydney academic Associate Professor Philip Alpers, which sets out areas where each state laws fall short of the National Firearms Agreement.

This agreement, widely known as the NFA, sets out minimum gun regulations in areas such as children's licences and restricted access to more powerful weapons.

Last week Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said his government and the states were "absolutely united in our commitment" to the agreement.

ABC News asked each of the state and territory governments and oppositions to state when they intended their jurisdiction would fully comply with the NFA.

None provided a timeframe or date.

Contentious commitments include permits for silencers

Last week Justice Minister Michael Keenan told ABC "we expect every state to live up to the commitments they have signed up to".

Ministers around the country were asked to provide justification for shortcomings in their local laws identified in the report.

Most declined to directly address the shortcomings, but the responses provided show the terms of the commitments under the National Firearms Agreement are contentious.

The report notes permits for silencers are available through a form-based process for recreational shooters with a "genuine reason" in New South Wales.

The NSW Government provided information to ABC arguing the NFA does not prohibit the issuing of permits for silencers and that the arrangements are not inconsistent with the NFA.

In its view, only when a silencer is attached to a firearm does it becomes a prohibited weapon, triggering tighter controls on its availability and use.

A spokesperson for NSW Police Minister Troy Grant said his government was "committed" to the NFA.

Kids and guns

Professor Alpers' report argues the intention of the NFA is to restrict the possession and use of firearms to adults.

Like in other states, minors' permits are available in New South Wales.

The NSW Government argues law in that state is consistent with the NFA, because the national agreement regulates age limits for "licences" and not "permits".

In other states such as Queensland however, exceptions made for children's use of guns are called licences.

ACT Minister Mick Gentleman noted "the ACT, as well as other jurisdictions, provides for minors' firearms licences for applicants aged 12-18".

"The issue of minors' firearms licences is necessary to ensure the next generation of competitive shooters and primary producers has sufficient training before being eligible to hold an adult firearms licence," he said.

Some states want bigger guns

The report sets out where laws regulating access to higher-category firearms, which are more powerful and potentially more dangerous, fall short of the standards required by the NFA.

The report states that NSW extends permission for the use of semi-automatic firearms to shooters whose occupation is not pest control.

Category D firearms include semi-automatic, pump action and lever action shotguns with more than five rounds.

New South Wales law limits a farmer engaged in pest control to three of these weapons. The state government argues this law is more restrictive than the NFA.

In that state large calibre pistol permits are also available for limited sports shooting, but the government argues this is consistent with the NFA.

In Victoria, licenses for some powerful handguns (for example, a machine gun that is a handgun) are available.

Information provided by the state government to ABC News states these are "strictly limited" and "extremely rare".

Here's what the states and territories say

Although not a single state or territory representative indicated when they intended to fully comply with the NFA, each was generally supportive of the agreement. Most chose to highlight efforts to minimise gun-related harm in regulations not covered by the agreement, such as weapon amnesties and targeting guns used by criminals.

Edited responses are provided below.

A spokesperson for NSW Police Minister Troy Grant:

"NSW is committed to the National Firearms Agreement 2017 (NFA) and was one of the first jurisdictions to implement the most recent changes through legislation."

Victorian Minister for Police Lisa Neville:

"We are strongly committed to the National Firearms Agreement and national consistency, and are currently drafting the legislative changes needed to implement the most recent agreement."

Victorian Opposition spokesman for police Edward O'Donohue:

"If any deficiencies with Victorian firearm legislation are identified then we will work with Victoria Police, the State Government and stakeholders to ensure appropriate amendments are introduced."

Queensland Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan:

"The Palaszczuk Government is committed to John Howard's world-renowned National Firearms Agreement, which was born out of Australia's deadly 1996 Port Arthur massacre, and work is already underway to strengthen Queensland's already strict gun laws."

WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts:

"The Law Reform Commission's review of firearms legislation in WA considers several of these matters. The Minister is working with the WA Police Force and other stakeholders to assess the recommendations and implement appropriate reforms."

WA Opposition spokesman for police Peter Katsambanis:

"As a responsible opposition we will assess any proposed amendments to existing legislation that are put up by the Police Minister and the WA Labor Government."

SA Police Minister Chris Picton:

"The possession and use of firearms is a privilege conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety. South Australia has some of the most robust firearms legislation in the country."

SA Opposition spokesman for police Stephan Knoll:

"As we've done in the past when SA Police have sought changes to gun laws, the State Liberals will always consider legislation on its merits, with the ultimate aim to make our communities safer here in SA."

Tasmanian Government spokesperson:

"Tasmania already has some of the strongest and most effective gun laws in the world and there are no plans to change them."

ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman:

"The ACT substantially complies with the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) of February 2017."

ACT Opposition Leader Alistair Coe:

"Gun ownership in Australia is a privilege and laws to protect against gun negligence or violence must be enforced. Rather than rushing to create new laws, we must ensure existing laws are properly enforced."