Domestic violence offenders targeted under fresh proposed changes to WA firearms laws
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Serious family and domestic violence offenders will be stripped of the ability to own firearms under the latest element of sweeping gun reform by the WA government.
It is one of a series of proposed changes Premier Roger Cook will formally announce today as part of his government's response to a spate of deaths linked to domestic violence in recent weeks.
Those deaths prompted an emotional crisis meeting last month between advocates, families, senior ministers and the police to discuss solutions.
Two key ideas put forward — a special taskforce to guide the government's efforts, and an advisory group made up of people who have experienced family and domestic violence — have been adopted by the premier.
Domestic violence support services say they are "depending" on further investment from the state government to combat the problem, saying women and children are "living in fear right now".
The gun reforms will come in addition to those measures, and will mean a person who has a violence restraining order or a family violence restraining order taken out against them will lose their firearms licence automatically.
"There's no overnight fix in relation to family and domestic violence, this is an issue that we as a community will continue to have to address for a period to come," Mr Cook said.
"But my government stands ready to make sure that we implement whatever policies we need to, to commit whatever resources are necessary to make sure that we have the sector with the resources that they need to do the jobs that they're committed to."
Currently, a restraining order can strip someone of their guns but that is not the case every time.
Mr Cook said current orders to remove guns from people were "often" challenged through the State Administrative Tribunal — but the changes were designed to put the removal of weapons "well beyond" legal challenge.
The amendments could also extend the ban on an offender owning a firearm beyond the length of the restraining order.
Gun owners will also face losing their weapons if they are convicted of certain offences known as mandatory disqualifying offences, once the reforms have passed parliament.
That section of the law will be applied retrospectively, meaning anyone previously convicted of one of the serious offences, within a yet-to-be-decided time frame, will also have their firearms licence taken away.
The state government has not yet decided how long people will lose their licences for but does have some ideas which are being considered.
It's understood the current proposal would see someone convicted on a charge like assault occasioning bodily harm lose their licence for five years, while someone convicted of manslaughter or attempted murder could be disqualified for 20 years.
The government estimates around 1,000 people could lose their licenses as a result of the changes.
"Mandatory disqualifying offences will disarm people, like serious domestic violence offenders, who have shown they are not fit to have a firearms licence," Police Minister Paul Papalia said in a statement.
The premier acknowledged the changes would not stop all perpetrators getting access to firearms but said it was an important step.
"If people are determined to break the law we can't control that," he said.
"But the police continue to do a lot of great work to eliminate illegal firearms in our community and the reforms … will provide significant powers to the police to continue their battle against illegal firearms."
Mr Cook said more than $200 million had been spent on family and domestic violence since the government took power in 2017.
"But we know there is always more to do to support victim-survivors and hold perpetrators to account," he said.
"We've listened and we're acting.
"This taskforce will help guide the next steps in addressing family and domestic violence, while the lived experience group will ensure the voices of victim-survivors, and the families of those we've lost, will always be front-and-centre in policy-making."
The group will run for six months and be co-chaired by Colleen Hayward, a senior Noongar woman and former ambassador for the Commissioner for Children and Young People, and the director-general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Emily Roper.
Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Sabine Winton said the taskforce would be more than a "talk-fest".
"This is a genuine partnership between all government agencies, and particularly at the highest level of each government agency … to come together to actually break down some of those barriers that prevent us from doing better work together."
The first job of the taskforce will be establishing the lived experience body, before turning its attention to a list of priorities put forward at last month's meeting.
One of the organisers of that meeting, Centre for Women's Safety and Wellbeing CEO Alison Evans, said she was "deeply pleased" with the proposed plans.
The government's efforts in family and domestic violence have already prevented deaths, she said, but needed significantly more funding to deliver real change.
Dr Evans hoped the taskforce would focus on "transformative" reforms to the way domestic violence is treated in WA, including better information sharing arrangements between different parts of government.
She said that would make the whole system better at assessing and managing risk so that "women and children aren't having to do that for themselves".
The sisters of Lynn Cannon say police were caught up with administrative work the night she was killed.
Dr Evans pointed to the death of Lynn Cannon at the hands of her ex-husband two years after they separated as an example of why the post-separation period needed more attention.
She said many women were left choosing between staying with their perpetrator, or leaving and facing homelessness.
"That's where the taskforce needs to have some teeth and really take those issues seriously," she said.
"We're saying to women and children look, we're here to support you to leave, or we're here to ensure that the perpetrator leaves, but we actually need to do that in action.
"We need to be supporting women and children all the way and that includes in that post-separation period when we know that they're at heightened risk and we know that they're relying on us to support them into safe housing."
Shadow police minister Peter Collier agreed housing needed to be an urgent priority for the government.
"You've got dozens of women out there every day that are suffering in silence because there is insufficient crisis care facilities," he said.
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