Progress on gun reform under renewed scrutiny

THE election of a new government has triggered uncertainty about the state of gun reform in Tasmania.

New Police Minister Rene Hidding said he would be ``bringing fresh eyes to the task'' but failed to outline any comprehensive policy agenda. 

It follows a period of significant foot-dragging by the former government, which introduced only a handful of gun reforms at the end of its term. 

The inaction prompted gun reform advocate Roland Browne to slam Labor for ``doing nothing'' despite a four-year review process that involved some 50 amendments to the Firearms Act. 

Mr Browne is now concerned the Liberal government will follow suit.

``I worry about that frequently because the history of gun reform in Tasmania and across Australia is that governments tend to do very little until prompted by a mass shooting,'' he said. 

``I'd like the Liberal Party to pick up the ball and run with it because it was the Liberals that introduced the Firearms Act in 1996. They were proud of that legislative reform.''

Mr Browne said first on the legislative agenda should be an outright ban of semi-automatic handguns. 

Semi-automatic pistols are available to holders of a Category H firearm licence for the purpose of ``sport or target shooting''.

Mr Browne also called for stricter storage requirements so gun safes ``can't just be pulled off the wall and carried out on a trolley''.

Homes containing guns should carry alarms that alert a security firm if they are activated, he said. 

The former government was planning to introduce such a measure, which was based on the review, last year but failed to do so.

At the time the proposal for increased storage requirements for owners of 15 or more guns was savaged by the Liberals as an attack on law-abiding citizens. 

Now in power Mr Hidding has turned the tables back on Labor for failing to introduce significant reforms. 

``While this is essentially Labor's review it's high time this was finalised and I will be bringing fresh eyes to the task to bring this process to completion,'' he said. 

``I have asked for the consultative committee to be recalled and I will be re-engaging with all stakeholders soon.''

An opposition spokesman said ``talk is cheap'' and it would be a test for the Liberals if they could build on Labor's reforms. 

``Labor has demonstrated its strong commitment to gun law reform through this legislation to crack down on firearm criminals, while continuing to support the vast majority of gun owners who do the right thing,'' he said.

The review of the Firearms Act initiated by former police minister Lin Thorp in 2010 had recommendations including:

 Magistrates to be able to seize guns.

 Ensure prospective gun owners can meet storage requirements.

 Prohibit guns with in-built silencers.

 Seizure of ammo from, suspended gun licensees.

 Tighten requirements for security guards.

 Include special licence for commercial fishers.

 Remove flare guns, whale taggers, starting pistols and abattoir guns from definition of firearm.

 Ban people deemed not ``fit and proper'' from working in gun dealership.

 Transfer power to forfeit guns from Police Minister to Commissioner. 

 Legalise paintball.

 Define imitation firearm.

 Remove 28-day waiting period for second firearm. 

 pbillings@examiner.com.au

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