The Victorian Police Minister has clearly indicated that there will be just two amendments to the Victorian Firearms Act 1996 as a result of the National Firearms Agreement (NFA) review.
The 2017 NFA, released in February, contained dozens of changes, including changing the word “should” to “must” in many instances; introducing 28-day waiting periods on all permits to acquire; and many more. It was the biggest threat to firearm ownership since 1996 and, at times, it appeared as though the antis were winning.
But, in a signed and dated letter this month, Minister Lisa Neville assured the firearms industry that “the only material impact of the updated Agreement is the classification of lever action shotguns and the removal of addresses from printed firearms licences”.
“Outside of this, the Government does not propose additional changes to firearms regulation that may flow from the updated Agreement,” the Minister said in her letter.
SSAA Victoria Chief Executive Officer Jack Wegman said the assurance was a result of a cooperative effort of more than six bodies within the industry.
“We had been lobbying Commonwealth and State governments alongside our key industry partners throughout the NFA battle,” Mr Wegman said. “But when the updated NFA was released, with all of its potentially disastrous changes, we knew we had to step it up a notch.”
Through the Combined Firearms Council of Victoria (CFCV), SSAA Victoria developed a strategy with SSAA NSW, Field and Game Australia, the Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria, the International Practical Shooting Confederation, and the Victorian Amateur Pistol Association.
“We developed a submission with the support of a professional lobbyist and then began working behind the scenes on politicians,” Mr Wegman said. “We approached people as individual organisations and together, under the CFCV banner, to arrange face-to-face meetings, deliver our submission and educate non-shooting politicians who could influence the Police Minister.”
“We worked through the Victorian Firearms Consultative Committee and the Firearm User Group, and called in the support of friends in politics, such as the Shooters and Fishers. We even rallied members to get out there and see their local members, because we know that individual voters have great influence over politicians.”
After much hard work, the tide began to turn towards the end of May. Bureaucrats began quietly informing the firearms industry that only the above changes would be made. But it was all hearsay until CFCV received the letter.
“We have long pushed for addresses to be removed from firearm licences for the protection of firearm owners,” Mr Wegman said. “It’s pleasing that the Police Minister has taken a common sense approach to that issue.”
“While the lever-action shotgun categorisation is not what we want, the situation would have been much worse if the anti-gun groups’ lobbying efforts were more effective. We don’t have everything that we wanted, but we stopped many of the major proposed changes from going through.”
This exercise shows that quiet diplomacy and behind-the-scenes lobbying is more effective than desk-banging and publicly backing politicians into a corner. SSAA Victoria will continue its strategy of quiet advocacy.