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Revamping Firearm Regulations in Western Australia to Tackle Domestic Violence

The Western Australian (WA) government is currently revamping its firearm regulations, which may result in the cancellation of firearm licenses for individuals involved in domestic violence. Additionally, the government intends to establish a task force and a “lived experience advisory group” to address the growing problem of family violence.

Premier Roger Cook clarified that the task force will offer guidance to the government, while the lived experience group will prioritize the perspectives of victims in the policymaking process.

This initiative accompanies recent efforts to tighten regulations on public firearm ownership.

Western Australian Gun Laws

The WA government is implementing comprehensive reform of its firearm regulations, with a focus on reducing illegal firearms and enhancing community safety.

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Similar to the broader Australian context, Western Australia does not permit firearms for self-defense. However, there are provisions that allow firearm possession for recreational shooting or hunting on eligible private properties.

According to data from WA Police, the number of licensed firearm owners has remained stable around 89,000 individuals, accounting for about 4.3 percent of the state’s adult population. Over the same period, the number of licensed firearms has increased by 60 percent, reaching nearly 350,000, with an average of four firearms owned per license holder. The state government argues that this increase emphasizes the need for a comprehensive review of gun laws to address these trends and improve public safety.

Proposed Changes in WA’s Gun Legislation

The Firearms Act in Western Australia has been in effect for almost five decades, prompting consideration of modern enhancements to enhance community safety.

The proposed revisions include stricter training requirements for prospective gun owners. Currently, obtaining a gun license relies solely on a multiple-choice test. Additionally, the amendments involve revoking licenses for individuals convicted of violent offenses and tightening regulations on firearm security and storage.

In February 2023, the WA Labor government implemented a prohibition on high-powered firearms designed for long-range shooting and capable of penetrating armor plating. This prohibition made 56 firearm types and 19 ammunition calibers illegal, resulting in 248 prohibited licensed firearms that needed to be disposed of by July 1, 2023. The state allotted funds for a “buyback” initiative to acquire these firearms from lawful owners.

Concerns about Firearms Falling into Criminal Hands Unfounded

Despite potential concerns, there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that these actions will reduce firearm-related crimes. Paul Fitzgerald, president of the Sporting Shooters Association in Western Australia (SSA-WA), argues that there is no definitive evidence establishing a direct correlation between crime rates and the number of licensed firearm owners in Western Australia. Firearms are the least common choice for criminal activities. Former police officer Bob Schwartz from Victoria also points out that firearms account for no more than three percent of all acts of violence in Australia, and other means such as blunt objects or physical altercations are more prevalent.

National Firearm Registry

The Western Australian government’s move coincides with the federal government’s consideration of establishing a comprehensive national database for firearm ownership throughout Australia. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed support for this potential initiative. Currently, firearms in Australia are registered on a state-by-state basis. However, the Wieambilla incident in Queensland in December 2022, where two police officers were shot, prompted political leaders to contemplate extending this system nationwide.

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