Archive for August, 2017

Gun control advocates warn ‘chain reaction’ eroding Howard’s gun laws

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

John Howard’s gun laws are collapsing, gun control advocates say, as they compile a stocktake on states and territories’ compliance with the National Firearms Agreement.

The agreement — which is non-binding, and underpinned by state and territory firearms laws — was negotiated by the then prime minister in 1996 after 35 people died in the Port Arthur massacre.

Preliminary findings from Gun Control Australia’s report on the issue indicate a “chain reaction” has been speeding up since 2008. The organisation’s chair, Samantha Lee, told the ABC that changes often began with gun lobby wins in NSW.

“As one of the bigger states passes laws to water down their legislation, the other states are following suit … the result being, our national approach to gun control is eroding,” Ms Lee said.

The audit is set to be released next month, and comes as states and territories are moving to implement an update of the agreement signed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) last December.
The main outcome of that review was tougher restrictions on lever-action shotguns, after an uproar about the arrival of a new weapon, the Turkish-made Adler A110.
The Adler came in 5- and 7-shot versions, with the latter banned for import by federal justice minister Michael Keenan in 2015.
Shooters were outraged at the ban, believing there was no new technology in the Adler, and no evidence that lever-action shotguns were being used in crime.

Backlash against Adler ban threatens revised national deal

The backlash from shooters has been so strong that some states and territories may baulk at implementing the revised national agreement. So far, only NSW and the ACT have implemented it.

Coalition governments have fractured over the ban, with several federal National Party MPs supporting a disallowance motion by Senator David Leyonhjelm in November, and Liberal MLC Peter Phelps crossing the floor when the enabling legislation reached the NSW Parliament in May.

NSW Police Minister Troy Grant took a public stand against the tougher restrictions until he resigned as deputy premier late last year, at which point NSW fell into line with other states and signed up to the revised agreement.

Mr Grant said at the time that he was standing up for the rights of law-abiding gun owners, and did not believe there was any evidence that lever-action shotguns were more dangerous than other weapons available to recreational shooters.

But Background Briefing can reveal that before his resignation, he received — and then overrode — confidential advice about the contentious laws from his own police force.

The heavily redacted advice, signed off by the NSW Police Firearms Registry and obtained under freedom of information laws by NSW Greens justice spokesperson David Shoebridge, says that improved technology means that lever-action shotguns “are now similar, in terms of their rapidity, to pump-action shotguns”.

Pump-action shotguns are highly restricted under the National Firearms Agreement.

Although the document did not make any recommendation, Mr Shoebridge said the clear implication of the expert police opinion was that circulation of lever-action shotguns should be just as restricted.

Queensland MP Katter vows to block new agreement

In Queensland, pro-gun state MP Robbie Katter has vowed to move a disallowance motion against any legislation implementing the revised agreement and giving effect to the Adler ban.

The member for Mount Isa — who shares the balance of power in Queensland — said the ban was political opportunism by the Federal Government.

“If it wasn’t so serious,” Mr Katter said, “it would be laughable that you’re going to cut bloody farmers down from seven shots to five shots when you’re shooting pigs, that that’s going to make people safe in the cities.”

Mr Katter’s tactic threatens to further fragment the national gun laws.

Ms Lee from Gun Control Australia said gun politics were especially fraught in Queensland, where firearms laws were weakened in 2012 by the conservative Newman government.

“The gun lobby had the ear of [then premier] Campbell Newman,” she said.

“He set up an advisory council up there just stacked with gun lobby advocates, and he said that he was pushing to get rid of red tape, but how we see it is that he’s actually really significantly watered down gun laws in Queensland.”

We’ll see what it means for public safety: Leyonhjelm

Senator Leyonhjelm, a pro-gun Liberal Democrat, said he believed it was likely that Queensland would not follow through with the revised agreement.

He told the ABC he would be “perfectly happy” if Australia went back to the situation before 1996, when the national gun laws were introduced.

“If, as a result of Queensland not signing up to this COAG agreement regarding lever-action shotguns, because of that, the National Firearms Agreement starts to lose relevance, all it will do is take us back to situation that applied 20 years ago when the states did their own things,” he said.

“What we will see is some states taking a fairly strong approach and some states taking a less strong approach, and we will see what the result is in terms of public safety.

“My view is we will see no difference between them in public safety because I think in the context of the gun laws in Australia gun control laws and gun violence are independent variables … they are not related.”

Joyce criticised for tweet on massacre anniversary

Ms Lee said pressure from an ascendant gun lobby had been having an effect on the National Party in particular.

She pointed to a tweet by then acting prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who wanted the 5-shot Adler to remain available for recreational shooters, on April 28, 2017 — the 21st anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre.

The tweet shows a meeting two days earlier with Robert Nioa, whose company imports the Adler into Australia.


Car plows into pizzeria near Paris, killing 12-year-old girl

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017

A car plowed into the outdoor terrace of a pizzeria in the small town of Sept-Sorts east of Paris on Monday, killing a 12-year-old girl and seriously injuring several other people.

The driver deliberately targeted the diners, said a local prosecutor who announced he was ruling out terrorism and opening a murder investigation.

“There is no doubt that he voluntarily decided to create what happened,” prosecutor Eric de Valroger told reporters at the scene of the incident.

No weapon was found in the vehicle, the prosecutor added.

Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told Reuters the driver was a “depressive” aged 32 and described him as an unstable character.

The incident occurred on a warm summer’s evening on the eve of a national holiday and witnesses said the outdoor eating area was busy.

A photograph published on social media showed a gray BMW car surrounded by upturned tables in the outdoor seating area of a restaurant. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the image.

Brandet said five victims were being treated in hospital for life-threatening injuries. Eight others suffered minor injuries and seven were treated for shock.

“Everyone on the terrace was hit,” one witness told BFM TV.

A police source said the driver lived in a neighboring village to Sept-Sorts, about 41 km (25.6 miles) to the east of Paris, and had tried to commit suicide on Sunday.

The incident occurred less than a week after an Algerian national was arrested on suspicion of deliberately ramming a hire car into a group of soldiers on a patrol in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret, injuring six of them.

The soldiers were part of Operation Sentinel, launched in the wake of Islamist attacks in Paris in early 2015. The Levallois-Perret attack was the 15th on troops and police in the last two-and-a-half years, many of them Islamic State-inspired.