Amnesty changes fire up new gun debate

TASMANIANS have given up a record number of firearms this financial year, but a dealer is concerned that firearms amnesty changes could deter people from surrendering more.

From July 2013 to Wednesday, 1035 firearms had been handed in.

This compares with 2012-13, when 695 firearms were surrendered, and 2011-12 when 601 firearms were surrendered.

No breakdown is available between the numbers given to police and licensed dealers.

Firearms Services acting Inspector Natasha Leaman said this year's success was because of the mobile firearms amnesty campaigns in Hobart and Launceston in the past six months.

Police collected almost 300 firearms through those promotions.

But Sports Hut Launceston manager Graham Blaskett, a licensed dealer for 30 years, said that amnesty changes would discourage people from surrendering firearms.

Assistant Commissioner Phil Wilkinson said on Wednesday that licensed dealers could no longer accept unregistered firearms, because their exemption under the Firearms Act, issued in 1997, had been withdrawn.

Police received legal advice that the Commissioner had no authority to exempt dealers from obtaining or buying such firearms.

Gun Control Australia spokesman Roland Browne supported the change and said it would ensure unwanted firearms were not channelled back into the community through dealers.

But Mr Blaskett said a lot of firearms surrendered were worthless anyway, and were destroyed.

He was worried however, that valuable, historically significant firearms would now be destroyed after being surrendered to police.

Mr Blaskett said there was also confusion about the potential retrospectivity of the change, because he and another dealer had received completely different information from Firearms Services.

However, acting Inspector Leaman said the withdrawal of the exemption on Tuesday was not being backdated.

She said the issue arose in November and Firearms Services suspended processing related documentation at that time.

Police were working with the courts to clear the backlog of paperwork, she said.

Acting Inspector Leaman said people with unwanted firearms could surrender them to police without fear of prosecution.

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