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National firearm register misfires on public safety

Dec 1, 2023

The answer to improved transparency and more efficient weapons licencing management lies in the national uptake of New South Wales’ gold star system and not continued politicking around the idea of a “National Gun Register”, Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MPs have said.

The State KAP MPs, who intimately know the defective Queensland system, said NSW’s electronic system could easily be adopted by all states and territories.

The party has persistently opposed the idea of a national database, labelling the idea as expensive, tokenistic and politically motivated.

It is expected that in coming weeks the National Cabinet will finalise a funding agreement that will see all state and territory firearm registers combined into a national database, with both systems operating concurrently.

Traeger MP and KAP Leader Robbie Katter said the idea of a national firearm register might appease some left-wing, inner-city voters but ultimately it would be a waste of taxpayer money.

He said the Queensland Government should be begging NSW to share their technology, which has been openly offered .

“The right to possess firearms is an issue that KAP has been dealing with for over 10 years and it’s infuriating to witness a Government that continually puts effort into misguided ideas that miss the mark,” Mr Katter said.

“All the states have individual licensing and registration systems for drivers’ licenses and car registrations, but they can all talk to each and there is no need for a national regime to sit over the top. A weapons licensing registry should be no different.

“All states and territories are capable of having their own individual systems that link to one another and share information nationally without wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on building a new federal system.

“On behalf of all law-abiding firearm owners, we want to see a real-time digitised state firearm register that would offer the best in community and police protection. The onus right now is on Queensland to bring their firearm register up to scratch and ensure it is accurate.

“A good government wouldn’t use this issue as a political football. If they were genuine about wanting to make our communities safer, they’d target the illegal firearm market and stop the glocks being shipped into this country by the container load.”

Hinchinbrook MP and KAP Deputy Leader Nick Dametto said that community safety would be improved if measures were put in place that actually improved firearm safety such as abandoning the archaic paper-based register currently used in Queensland and replacing it with a digitised version.

“Making sure Queensland has a digitised system with real-time updates would be a much more effective way to reduce the confusion and backlog that exists within the Queensland firearms register,” Mr Dametto said.

“Some people might be shocked to learn that in Queensland we still rely on a paper-based system for everything from weapon licences through to permits to acquire (PTAs).

“There have been instances where firearms have dropped off the register or the information has been inaccurate because police are working with an inefficient, outdated paper system.

“Digitalising the state register so that PTAs can be approved within 30 minutes would ensure that the registered owner and location of every firearm is as accurate as it can be, and that’s the cheapest and most effective way to improve community safety in Queensland.

“The fact is firearms licencing is quite expensive and Queensland firearm owners are not getting value for money at this point. Any upgrade to the state register shouldn’t come at a cost to the licenced firearm owners.

“At a time where the cost of living is the number one issue nation-wide, spending $200 million on an unnecessary national register might impress some non-the-wiser people in the cities but when the rubber hits the road it will make no difference.

“Queenslanders deserve to have money spent in areas such as education, health, or extra policing, not dumped into something designed to only wins cheap political votes.”

KAP Member for Hill Shane Knuth said $200 million was a lot of money just to make unassuming people across the country feel good about a national firearm register.

“That money would be better spent on more policing and law and order,” Mr Knuth said.

“It would be more beneficial to community safety if the Government focused on targeting the illegal trafficking of firearms. If they are serious about making Australians safer, that’s the best avenue they could take, not wasting hundreds of millions of dollars to give people a false sense that they are better protected.”

Shooters Union Australia President Graham Park said that although $200 million was the amount slated to build the national firearm database, in reality the cost could be hundreds of millions more than that.

“No Government project sticks to budget and we’ve seen some classic examples of that this this year alone with project delays and blowouts,” Mr Park said.

“If you look overseas at both Canada and New Zealand, both of those jurisdictions experienced massive cost overruns when setting up their national registers.

“Canada have already dismantled their database and New Zealand is currently undertaking a Government enquiry to potentially dismantle theirs because of cost overruns and a lack of benefit to public safety.”