The Hon Christian Porter MP
PO Box 6022
Canberra ACT 2600
Re: Firearms licensing requirements – Family law disputes
The recent horrific shooting of two teenagers by their father in West Pennant Hills has highlighted the need for urgent action to address deficiencies in existing firearms regulation. In the wake of this tragedy we are seeking your support for new family law firearms safety checks to better protect women and children from gun violence. We also ask the Government to call an investigation into the broader regulatory and policy circumstances which led to the tragic deaths.
Family law firearms safety checks
We propose a two-part firearm safety check system which would be undertaken for all new custody proceedings lodged in the Family Court. The checks would involve a firearm licence review, and spousal notification.
- Firearm licence review
Where a person becomes a party to family law proceedings, police would be required to check whether the person holds a gun licence. If they do, police would need to make an assessment about whether there is any cause for concern for the safety for the firearm licence holder, their immediate family or the public. In these circumstances, police would have the power to suspend or revoke a licence, or refuse to issue a permit.
- Spousal notification
Where a person who is a party to family law proceedings has a gun licence, makes an application for a firearm licence, or makes an application for a permit to acquire a licence, police would be required to notify other parties involved in the proceeding, generally a spouse or former partner. The notification would then allow the spouse or former partner to object to the continuation of the licence or to the application on the grounds of concerns for personal safety for himself, herself or others.
Mr Edwards’ gun licence and ownership
We further urge you to review the circumstances that led to Mr Edwards possessing firearms. In particular, we understand that:
- Mr Edwards legally owned several firearms. He would have lodged a separate Permit to Acquire (PTA) for each firearm. To do this, he would have been required to specify a legitimate reason for obtaining each firearm, and a separate reason for requiring multiple firearms. We query the validity of his legitimate reason, and the rigour of the assessment process.
- Mr Edwards would have had to declare his ability to satisfy the safe-keeping of all firearms. We query whether his ability to satisfy this request was confirmed.
- In order to possess a high-powered handgun, he would have had to obtain a written statement from a shooting club secretary or relevant office holder to obtain the PTA and the licence. We question the basis on which this occurred.
- Shooting clubs must suspend or cancel a person’s membership if they fail to meet club requirements. As Mr Edwards owned two pistols he would have been required to participate in a minimum of eight (8) shooting activities during a compliance period. We query whether he met these requirements.
- Shooting clubs are required to obtain a character reference before allowing membership.We consider it appropriate to investigate whether this occurred.