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Bulletin #7 05-10-2009

Firearm Ownership in Australia.

Here is some very interesting information concerning Firearm ownership in Australia. The information is from Mr. Norbert Gross a firearms instructor who purchased some of our Barrel-Lite® firearm Safety Inspection Devices for his use in his classes. He writes,

Hi John

Norbert is fine, Mr. Gross is way too formal, especially here in Australia where everyone, from janitor to Prime Minister, is known by their first name! :-)

I received your email regarding the shipping; thank you. There should be no problems with customs or taxes as they don't bother with anything worth less than $500.

About the gun laws in Oz. Politically, Australia is a Federation of 7 States plus a couple of territories. Each of these states have their firearm laws, and until the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, there was quite a difference between laws in each state. For example, one state may have required a firearms license and all guns be registered, while across the border there may have been a permit or license of sorts, but no registration of the guns.

By the way, there are a lot of people who do not believe the massacre was perpetrated by Martin Bryant. A Google search on "Port Arthur massacre" brings up some interesting pages, for example First Site and Second Site

I'm usually very cynical of "Conspiracy Theories", but you do have to wonder how he could have done that with no military or special ops training.

Anyway, after the Port Arthur massacre, the newly elected Federal government, keen to show a tough stand, demanded the states toughen up all their firearms laws and to also bring some uniformity. They were not able to take over the legislation themselves as the states were not willing to let the Federal government have that power.

While the various states laws are still not quite in line with each other, they certainly are now closer, and mostly far tougher than before.

The main change was an almost complete banning of pump action shotguns and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Strangely, pump action rifles are still OK.

So the government spent about half a billion dollars "buying back" the now illegal guns. I had to hand in a pump action shotgun and was given a cheque for around $450. Most shooting folks I know just took the money straight to the gun shop and ordered something they were allowed to own!

The crazy thing was that if the gun was owned illegally, you got no compensation. So as you can imagine, the criminals were not lining up to hand in their guns!

And certainly in those states were registration had not been a requirement, a lot of people just didn't hand the guns in. Some estimates are that there are still around 3 million "illegal" firearms in the hands of ordinary folks, not criminals.

Basically, you need to have a genuine reason for owning a firearm. That includes club target shooting, hunting and primary production (farming), but self defense is not a genuine reason. You need to do some safety training and are then issued a license, after background checks for mental illness, criminal activity, etc. And every single firearm you get has to be registered; even paint ball and air guns are considered fully fledged firearms!

Most shooters now have bolt action rifles and double barrel shotguns. Lever actions and pump action rifles are also popular for competition or with those who want a quick follow up shot when hunting.

All the above is about long arms. Handguns in all states have been strictly regulated since the late 1940's. Basically, a private citizen cannot own a handgun except for target shooting at a recognized shooting club; it's almost impossible to get permission to own or carry any kind of firearm for self defense.

And unfortunately, we had one incident where a licensed handgun owner shot some people in a University, so even these already tough laws were tightened further. Now you cannot own a handgun with a bore size over .38, unless shooting metallic silhouette or western action, and no magazine capacity greater than 10 rounds.

I decided to sell some 1840's single shot pocket pistols as they were percussion and for me to keep them I would have had to get them serial numbered, registered and join a collector's club! So I used the money to buy a Glock! :-)

Of course the criminals ignore all these laws, and one report I read from the government's own customs service estimate that for every 1 handgun going into private ownership, 3 are smuggled into the country and end up in the hands of criminals or outlaw motorcycle gangs.

Fortunately, Australia is still generally a very safe country, and your chances of having criminal threaten you is pretty small, unless you are involved in the drug scene somehow.

Up until the early 60's, most Australians would have had family or at least known someone who lived outside the main cities, and so had some contact with the people of the "bush". It was very common to have a .22 rifle at home, even in the city, but with further urbanization and progressively tougher gun laws, a lot of people found less need to own a rifle so the ownership has dropped. I have been shown and even been given a number of old "bunny guns" which were never registered but still stored away in the shed or wardrobe.

So Australia certainly has a history of firearm ownership, at least rifles, and I've even heard that the Japanese were quite concerned about invading Australia in WW2 because they knew that, at the time, Australia was a nation where almost every man owned a rifle or at least knew how to use one. I'm sure they had the same concerns with the USA.

Our NRA is the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA), and with around 140,000 members, is the only real political voice shooters have here. It is estimated that about one in ten shooters is a member of the SSAA, (website here so we have around 1.5 million firearm owners in Australia, which is not too bad for a nation of just over 20 million.

We are not exactly an anti gun nation, but of course the vocal, well funded anti gun lobby also exists here. But we have had a change of government recently and the current Prime Minister has been known to do a bit of clay target shooting, so hopefully they will leave us alone for a while!

Anyway, the safety course I run is for new members to our target shooting club. These folks range from absolute beginners to those with far more experience than I have, but it is a requirement that everyone does the club safety course. I spend a couple of hours going over the basic safety rules as well as a general discussion about a few other firearm related things before they do a short test.

It will be interesting to see how the Barrel-Lite will be looked upon by other shooters here, considering that most of them have a bolt action rifle or break action shotgun, and it is much easier to check for an obstruction in those than than a pump or semi-auto. I can certainly show it to the SSAA's Technical Advisor as he happens to be a member of my club.

Anyway, I've waffled on long enough. It's midnight here now so it's time to hit the sack!

Kind regards, Norbert

VP. Sales and Marketing
J. Bar Products Int'l., Inc.
1944 Cottonville Dr.
Arkdale, WI.

Our Barrel-Lite® is used at present by 20 USA State DNR Hunter Safety Divisions and presented to their Hunter Ed Instructors for a training tool in their Hunter Safety Classes. We have several Canadian Providences and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who uses them in the same method and in their Firearm Safety instruction course. Plus we have 250 Dealers around the country who have them in their sport shops. We also have many Hunter Safety Instructors who purchase them and use them as graduation gifts for their students.

We are always seeking new Dealers, Hunter Safety Instructors and looking for a few good distributors and sales reps or jobbers who may be interested in presenting our product to their customers. We offer a very good commission base.

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