State backs down on firearms closure

Primary producers, vets, pest controllers now allowed access to guns and ammo

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Following uproar from Queensland's primary production sector, the state government has backtracked on its order that all firearm dealerships in the state were to close.

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Following uproar from Queensland's primary production sector, the state government has backtracked on its order that all firearm dealerships in the state were to close.

News that they they had been deemed non-essential by the Chief Health Officer leaked out over the weekend, to the stunned disbelief of graziers, macropod harvesters, people working in feral pest mitigation, and the businesses servicing the industry.

The directive left hundreds of small businesses across the state, many of them also operating as general rural merchandisers, with no alternative but to close their doors.

By Tuesday morning, following urgent representations to the state government, including from federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, to amend the ruling to allow exemptions in certain circumstances, the state government announced that licensed armourers and dealers would be able to provide essential services to primary producers and other industries that rely on weapons to do their jobs.

According to the latest direction from the Chief Health Officer, licensed armourers and dealers may store, modify, repair, acquire or supply weapons and ammunition to specific groups.

As well as primary producers, these groups include commercial pest controllers or feral animal controllers, vets, shark control contractors, and a number of other state and federal bodies.

Agriculture Minister Mark Furner said the direction provided "clarity and certainty for those industries and individuals who need licensed armourers and licensed dealers to carry out their work".

"This is a sensible decision that will allow our agriculture sector to get on with the job of feeding Queenslanders," he said. "To do that, our primary producers need access to firearms to properly manage pests on their properties."

Mr Furner said the government received strong representation from primary producers and other groups on this issue and this latest direction provides a sensible, workable and practical solution.

"Our primary producers are playing an essential role as we battle against COVID-19 and these latest measures will make it easier for them to do their jobs," he said.

Questions still unanswered

Shooters Union Australia president Graham Park said they were still waiting for an official reason as to why gun stores and armourers should have their trade restricted at all.

"The fact a legitimate business only accessible to people with a police-issued licence could be shut down despite plenty of other non-essential businesses being allowed to trade should be of immense concern," he said "It is a massive overreach of power that could very easily be applied to any business or service, without recourse or compensation."

He said the uproar could have been avoided if the government had taken the time to talk to gun dealers and the shooters' union first, and said the amendment failed to recognise the role licensed hunters and recreational shooters played in Queensland, particularly with regards to controlling pest animals.

"We're glad farmers and professional cullers now have access to ammunition to keep us fed, but it doesn't go far enough," Mr Park said. "Hunters provide a valuable service to farmers providing volunteer pest control and this new declaration still fails to take that into account."

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto, one of those outspoken against the government's initial decision to completely shut down all firearms dealers and armourers, said recreational shooters were still being unfairly targeted.

"I welcome this move by the government, but in reality there was no need to shut down any licensed firearm dealer or armourer in the first place.

"It created so much unnecessary turmoil and threatened people's livelihoods," he said.

"Licensed recreational shooters still appear to be barred from purchasing weapons and ammunition, which is an infringement of their rights to enjoy their sport in a safe and responsible manner.

"In my view, so long as you maintain a safe social distance of 1.5m, there should be no reason why a licensed recreational shooter cannot pre-arrange a visit to a range or private property on his own or with a fellow shooter.

"That would still respect the public health guidelines that have been set out by the government."

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