15 February 2024

WA Govt to implement firearm buyback, country's strongest legislation as gun owners oppose reform

| James Day
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A police officer holding a 3D-printed gun labelled 'PATRICK'.

Last April the WA Drug and Firearm Squad charged two men following an investigation that uncovered four 3D-printed firearms, various parts and a printer containing schematics for the weapons. Photo: WA Police.

As Western Australia (WA) Police gear up for new laws and the buyback compensation scheme to kick in later this month, the state’s Firearms Community Alliance (WAFCA) said government was pushing a campaign that created fear and untruths about legal gun owners.

Following years of consultation with licence holders, the Primary Producers Firearms Advisory Board, industry stakeholders and the community, the new reforms to WA’s Firearms Act will make the state the first in Australia to introduce a limit on the number of firearms an individual can own.

With public safety in focus, the government is also enhancing storage requirements, mandatory firearms training, compulsory health checks, new licence types, reform of the written authority system and the introduction of mandatory disqualifying offences.

The legislation will come into effect on 21 February, alongside a statewide voluntary scheme compensating licence holders for surrendering their firearms regardless of whether the changes impact them.

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Police Minister Paul Papalia said that unfortunately a number of high-profile firearm incidents had compromised the safety of regular, law-abiding Western Australians in recent years.

“If there are fewer firearms in the community, there will be fewer opportunities for them to be used inappropriately,” said Mr Papalia.

“Law changes will make it harder to obtain a firearm licence, there will be stricter regulation surrounding where you can use and store firearms, and many Western Australians who purchased a property letter online as a reason to get a licence may struggle to get a new written authority.”

In response to the changes, WAFCA spokesperson Paul Fitzgerald said the “much-hyped rewrite” would see a total disregard for the accepted pillars of genuine reason for competition and sport shooting in Australia under the National Firearms Agreement.

“The Police Minister’s cheap throwaway quip telling firearm users to ‘get another hobby’ is utterly disrespectful,” said Mr Fitzgerald.

“Not one of the proposals in the Firearms Act Consultation Paper, which was released in November last year, provides any evidence of how their legislation will lead to an improvement in public safety as they completely fail to address the real issues of illegal guns and firearm crime.”

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Premier Roger Cook said the new laws struck a balance between the legitimate and responsible use of firearms and public safety, but most importantly – allowed the state to be ready and equipped to participate in a national firearms registry.

“There are more than 360,000 licensed firearms owned by fewer than 90,000 Western Australians, and the new legislation will impact all of them in a responsible way,” said Mr Cook.

“That’s why we are giving all individual firearms licence holders the opportunity to take part in the $64.3 million voluntary buyback scheme.”

The scheme will remain open to owners at any WA Police station until 31 August or until the fund is emptied, with a payment schedule based on current retail baseline valuations, similar to those used in the 1996/97 Commonwealth buyback.

WA Police said unlicensed firearms could be surrendered without penalty and fear of prosecution, but they would not qualify for the buyback scheme.

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