It’s time to review Australia’s gun control laws

Stuart Horrex in Online Opinion

Over the last days and weeks we’ve seen and heard much angst from both ministers and back-benchers in the Abbott Government about terrorism, freedom of speech, and the freedom to cause offence.

We’re now seeing a concerted effort by the Abbott Government to use events including the Sydney siege, and the recent events in France as justifications for new and amended legislation.

Attorney General George Brandis is out again, disingenuously linking his mandatory data retention laws with recent events, as if somehow events would have been miraculously different had his proposed laws been in place.

We don’t need new laws for our police and security agencies to enforce, we need them to have more resources, support, and the proper training to enforce existing laws.

We’ve heard Abbott Government back-bench MP Cory ­Bernardi’s recent calls for changes to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

We don’t need laws to change for Australians to have their say openly and honestly about the issues they feel important.

We’ve also witnessed Peter Dutton MP, incoming Immigration Minister say Customs Officers will now be armed at airports in his new expanded “Australian Border Force” portfolio.

All these statements are further evidence the Abbott Government is totally wrong footed in its response to recent tragic events including those in Sydney and Paris, and critically, the Abbott Government is totally wrong footed by the wider ramifications of these tragic events.

Former Prime Minister John Howard bravely tackled the issue of guns and gun control during his term. It is now time to build on those reforms and further protect Australians from gun related crime and violence.

We need stronger gun control measures, not more people with guns.

Many Australians may be surprised to know that despite the former Prime Minister’s decisive action in 1996, there are now more guns in circulation than before the National Firearms and Handgun Agreements were put in place.

The first duty of any government is to provide for the “peace, order, and good government” of the peoples of this country. In recent months the Abbott Government has not met at least two of those three imperatives.

We must ensure the Abbott Government is properly supporting our law enforcement services with appropriate levels of resourcing and clear legislative backing so law enforcement agencies effectively enforce existing gun laws.

Criminals break laws. The need to protect the Australian people from crime, especially gun related crime and violence, is paramount and must be a priority for any government. The Abbott Government needs to recognise “security theatre”, and a “get tough” approach may play well in the marginals, and it may get you points with the Daily Tele, but it does not progress the long term interests of our nation.

It is time for the Abbott Government to step up in the same way John Howard’s Government stepped up. They promised to be a “grown up government” after all.

It’s time for our partisan politicians to give our law enforcers and security agencies the space they need, free of political interference and point scoring, so they may enforce the existing laws already put in place to respond to criminal activity, and detect and take out of circulation the illegal guns in this country.

Many Australians, particularly those working on the land, use firearms as tools of their trade and it is appropriate they continue to be able to do so.

It is also appropriate Australians living in our capital and regional cities and our towns – feel safe in the knowledge their Government is doing everything it can to protect them in their communities by permanently disqualifying unfit Australians from legally accessing firearms for any purpose.

It is time the Australian Government reviewed the National Firearms Agreement of 1996 and the National Handgun Agreement of 2002.

If people believe fewer guns on the streets make for a safer Australia they need to elect a Government who will advocate for the views of the Australian people in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.

At the next Federal Election the Australian people will judge Prime Minister Abbott and his Government on their actions now.

As a member of the Australian Democrats I know there is a political party who will always advocate for stronger gun control measures.

Stuart Horrex in Online Opinion
16 January 2015

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