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Powerful US gun lobby encouraged One Nation to weaken Australia's strict gun ownership laws – ABC News

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Powerful US gun lobby encouraged One Nation to weaken Australia's strict gun ownership laws
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America's National Rifle Association encouraged One Nation to push for weaker gun laws in Australia to make it easier for the powerful lobby group to push back against gun control efforts in the United States.
Pauline Hanson's chief of staff James Ashby and Queensland One Nation leader Steve Dickson were secretly filmed meeting with NRA representatives as part of a covert Al Jazeera investigation airing on the ABC and iview.
In one meeting in Washington DC last September, senior NRA lobbyist Brandi Graham told the pair it would be easier for the NRA to resist calls for gun control in the US if Australia had softer gun ownership laws.
"That helps us, because the biggest argument we always get from folks is, 'Well, look at Australia'," Ms Graham said.
"They are continually attacking us, it's never-ending."
Mr Dickson told Ms Graham, "Well, we want to kill it now, that's the plan".
Senator Pauline Hanson did not attend the meeting.
For its investigation, Al Jazeera set up a fake gun lobby group called Gun Rights Australia whose "leader", Rodger Muller, pretended to be a grass-roots campaigner.
Meanwhile, he covertly recorded meetings that he arranged between One Nation, the NRA and other US gun lobby groups.
Footage from the secret recordings was broadcast last night in the Al Jazeera documentary How to Sell a Massacre.
The documentary also reveals the NRA and One Nation discussed the promotion of women's self-defence as the first step in dismantling Australia's strict gun ownership laws.
At a separate meeting, another senior NRA official, Glen Caroline, advised One Nation's Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson that focusing on women being able to defend themselves was a good way to argue for weaker gun ownership laws.
"The issue that resonates well, especially with women, is telling them, 'You don't have to own a firearm, just don't let the Government tell you you can't have a firearm'," Mr Caroline told the meeting.
"Right now, you really don't have a choice. That's been legislated away from you," he advised One Nation to tell women.
The NRA has not responded to the ABC's questions about its meetings with One Nation.
The NRA was not the only pro-gun organisation to advise One Nation to target women in its efforts to change gun policies.
The One Nation pair also met Larry Keane from the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Washington, who was filmed advising them to focus on getting mothers involved in sports shooting.
Keane: "If mom is ok with it, then everyone in the family will participate. If mom is against you, dad's just not going to fight that fight, right? Let's be honest. And then the kids aren't going to be allowed to. You've got to get the moms."
Ashby: "Yeah, good advice."
Over drinks at a restaurant, the Al Jazeera undercover gun advocate, Mr Rodgers, recorded Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson discussing the strategy of focusing on women.
"You need to soften people back up again and part of it will be — let's start looking at implementing women's shooting range programs, self-defence programs," Mr Ashby said.
"Whatever those things might be, start re-empowering women or vulnerable people."
Mr Dickson and Mr Ashby also discussed how to make changes to gun laws more palatable to the public.
"It's like Vegemite, you don't put a f***ing bundle of the shit on the toast," Mr Ashby said.
"A light smear at first. Get 'em used to the flavour."
The discussions by Mr Dickson and Mr Ashby about changing gun laws appear to be at odds with One Nation's official stance.
The party intends to review gun laws, but the policy statement on One Nation's website states that the party "supports responsible gun ownership and will uphold the current laws".
An undercover investigation documents One Nation's efforts to solicit political donations from heavy hitters in the gun lobby. Watch the documentary on iview.
Mr Dickson asked Mr Muller, the fake gun rights advocate, to "knock up a policy for us on guns that we can run through One Nation".
Later on, he told Mr Ashby: "We need something that we can put forward to the Federal Government to supersede all state legislation."
The footage from the Al Jazeera investigation also showed Mr Dickson telling NRA officials that loosening Australia's gun laws was a priority for One Nation.
"We get the balance of power, very simply that means that we have the testicles of the Government in our hand at every given stage," Mr Dickson said.
"And guns, in the scheme of things, are still going to be the be-all and end-all."
The Al Jazeera documentary also included footage of One Nation leader Pauline Hanson questioning the Port Arthur massacre.
The National Firearms Agreement was introduced in 1996 by the Howard Government in response to the killings at Port Arthur.
It put tight restrictions on ownership of semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons, a move New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is following after the Christchurch massacre in which 50 people were killed.
Mr Muller recorded a conversation at a dinner with Senator Hanson and Mr Ashby in Queensland late last year.
Hanson: "An MP said, 'It would actually take a massacre in Tasmania to change the gun laws in Australia.' Have you heard that? Have a look at it. It was said on the floor of Parliament."
Ashby: "Also that whole September 11 thing, too."
Hanson: "Those shots, they were precision shots. Check the number out. I've read a lot and I've read the book on it, Port Arthur. I read a book on it, on Port Arthur. A lot of questions there."
One Nation told the ABC it "always complied with the law" and "supports the rights of lawful gun ownership".
Watch the second part of the Al Jazeera investigation on Thursday on ABC TV or watch the full documentary on iview.
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This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)


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