Primary producers may have an ABN and the taxation department may have classified them as primary producers, but if they earn any money outside that line of work, Queensland’s Weapons Licensing Branch is likely to determine they don’t have a genuine reason for owning a handgun.
It’s a clarification that comes as the branch breaks its silence on the increase in category H licence refusals that have bewildered longstanding licence-holders and been the subject of vociferous political debate.
The LNP and Katter’s Australian Party have protested for nearly 18 months that licences for concealable firearms are being refused to primary producers for no legitimate reason, with the tacit approval of the Palaszczuk government.
Previously, the Weapons Licensing Branch has been largely silent on its rationale but this week sent a statement to the Queensland Country Life.
In it, an un-named police spokesman said recent court and tribunal decisions from Queensland and other states have supported the decisions to refuse concealable licences.
“Each decision has provided a further clarification of the ‘genuine need’ provisions, the type of business, the type and size of properties and are consistent with the current decision-making processes of Weapons Licensing,” he said.
“Weapons Licensing applies further scrutiny as to whether an applicant is meeting the requirements of a ‘primary producer’ in the Act which states that they must be ‘primarily engaged in the occupation’.
“A number of recent applicants have been found to have other occupations not engaged with the business of primary production.
“The applicant must prove they derive the majority of their income in their occupation as a primary producer.”
The spokesman cited a number of Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal decisions – two of them, Harm in 2010 and Shaxson in 2014, have been noted earlier by QCL, but a further decision, Feeney, 2017, was described as clarifying “occupation” for category H purposes.
As documented by firearms lawyer, Simon Munslow, for the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine, retired Lieutenant Colonel Feeney, a Vietnam veteran, had established the Professional Vermin Control and Training company in 1997, with a fee that covered costs rather than made a profit.
QCAT was unable to conclude this provided an occupational requirement for a concealed firearm as required by the Act.
AgForce guns spokesman, Graham Park, described the use of these cases as a “justification, not an explanation”.
“It means this issue is a moving target and that’s what’s causing confusion,” he said.
“Weapons Licensing likes a case by case approach but AgForce would like a system that’s clear for all.
“The parameters already exist – the taxation department classifies people as primary producers.”
Terrain type assessed
According to the police spokesman, another part of the approval process requires the applicant to demonstrate the property in question is of such a nature that a concealable firearm is required to carry out the humane destruction of stock that may be injured in remote parts of the property.
He said Weapons Licensing utilises Queensland Globe to assess the terrain of the nominated property.
“Weapons Licensing have regard to the CSIRO model codes of practice for humane destruction of animals and the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines when determining suitability for use of handguns,” he said.
This is in response to the question of the need for a pistol rather than a rifle, due to a property’s land type.
The police spokesman made a number of other points:
- The 2017 National Firearms Agreement (NFA) specifically precludes the use of category H firearms for primary production purposes.
- Queensland fundamentally follows the 2017 NFA framework, however, there are variations in recognition of what constitutes a genuine reason and Queensland currently issue category H weapons to primary producers on a case by case basis.
- NSW, Victoria and Tasmania do not issue this type of licence (category H) for primary production. The other States generally have less than 100 on issue.
- The current number of concealable firearms licences issued as at 26 July 2017 for occupational (rural use) is 2144 licences for 2471 concealable firearms.
- Historically, these types of licences have been issued to primary producers for use on large properties to destroy sick and injured animals to prevent prolonged suffering for the animal if the owner returned to their residence to gain access to a long-arm.
- A number of these licences have recently been refused on the basis that applicants do not meet the genuine reason requirements for the issue of a concealable firearm for a variety of reasons, including failing to meet the occupational requirement.
- Any application to possess a category H firearm (handgun) undergoes vigorous scrutiny and a thorough vetting of the applicant by QPS Weapons Licensing.
- Applicants must demonstrate a genuine reason, supported by documentation, to use a particular class of firearm.
- This includes handguns to be used for sports target shooting at an approved pistol club, or for occupational purposes including training, security guard employment and occupational rural purposes.
- A firearm, including an air pistol and a blank-fire firearm, under 75cm in length (other than a powerhead) is a category H weapon, irrespective of whether it is operable.
- The new NFA restricts primary producers to category A, B, C and D weapons. Category H concealable firearms are not supported for primary production purposes.
- Applications for category H licences and renewals is cyclic which could account for the reduction in applications for licence approval or renewal. This could also be attributable to persons not applying for licences or renewals as they do not have a genuine reason or genuine need for a category H firearm.
- A category H licence is issued for five years. All applications assessed from 2010 onwards are subject to consideration of the 2010, 2014 and 2017 QCAT decisions.
- Each of the rejected applications were assessed by the same Authorised Officer. Although the conditions on which the rejections were determined differ, consideration by the same Authorised Officer has ensured a consistent and measured approach to the assessment and finalisation of such applications.
- Each rejected applicant is provided with a comprehensive and detailed information notice. The information notice highlights the Authorised Officer’s considerations and determinations for each individual application.
- All licences are subject to business rules which are determined by regulation and precedent.