Special gun licences for WA farmers likely as state rewrites Firearms Act, police minister says
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A special advisory board to consult with farmers on firearms laws will be established as Western Australia moves to ban high-powered weapons and ammunition.
Reform of the state's Firearms Act was already underway when a large cache of high-powered weapons — mostly legal and licensed — was discovered by police in a bunker in Perth earlier this year.
The discovery led WA Police to push for a ban of 56 types of firearms and 19 calibres of ammunition as part of the reform process.
The move blindsided farmers and pastoralists who use firearms as part of their day-to-day work.
Announcing the advisory board this week, Police Minister Paul Papalia said it would provide farmers with direct access to the legislative process.
"We recognise that farmers and primary producers are a special case," Mr Papalia said.
"They need a firearm for doing their job so they are going to be given special access and special insight to drive the policy."
Mr Papalia said while WA firearms legislation had been amended many times, completely new legislation had not been written for 50 years.
"Every other jurisdiction in the country has completely re-written their firearms acts since the Port Arthur massacre and WA hasn't, so we're just catching up — we're going to make it a modern act," he said.
The advisory board will be made up of representatives from WAFarmers, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, Wines of WA, Vegetables WA and the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association.
The group will meet monthly during the rewrite of the act, which is expected to see the state government ban high-powered weapons from July this year.
WAFarmers president John Hassell welcomed the announcement of the board but said he hoped the consultation would be genuine.
"Our experience so far with the minister is they said they were going to do consultation, summoned us up to Dumas House [and] told us what was going on." Mr Hassell said
"My experience of it was no consultation whatsoever — it was laying down the law."
Prenti Downs Station manager Jack Carmody said there needed to be a differentiation between recreational and professional shooters.
Mr Carmody, who ran for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party at the 2021 state election, said professional shooters had a genuine need for particular tools like sound suppressors to effectively control pest animals.
"If you are controlling a large group of feral camels and you are using a bolt action firearm that is not suppressed, you are going to spook the group," he said.
"There is a learned response that when there are firearms they want to run."
Mr Papalia said he expected new legislation would include specific licences for primary producers.
"They will be dealt with as a special case as people who require a firearm to make their living — that is acknowledged," he said.
"They are different and special and there will be a licence to recognise that."
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