WA farmers' firearm 'property letter' system to be overhauled amid claims of abuse
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Western Australia's "property letter" system is set to be overhauled in the state's gun law reform, with claims of corruption and abuse of the system.
Under existing laws, rural property owners in WA can issue letters permitting people to shoot vermin on their property.
The letters are used by recreational shooters to gain easier access to guns and gun licences.
It is not illegal to buy or sell property letters in WA, and once they are given they cannot be rescinded.
Outgoing Premier Mark McGowan said the property letter system had become a "loophole" for people to "abuse" the system.
"It's been abused," Mr McGowan said.
"Lots and lots of people in the city have these letters and therefore go and buy guns, and I suspect never set foot on a farm.
"So obviously that system needs dramatic reform, and we're going to dramatically reform it."
Pastoralists and Graziers Association policy director Sheldon Mumby said he was not surprised by the move.
"The problem with the current system is that it's been in place for such a long period of time, and there's really no central record of what's happening with the property letters," he said.
"It leads to a whole range of issues over trying to find out the number of firearms that are actually out there, and what they're being used for."
Mr Mumby said the government was proposing a new database to centralise the property letters and allow the number of letters issued to be restricted.
He said all existing property letters would be cancelled under the new laws.
"Recreational shooters will have to reapply and seek a new property letter, which will be recorded on the central database," he said.
Mr Mumby said there was uncertainty over whether or not landholders would remain in control of issuing the letters, or whether responsibility would be given to WA Police.
Pastoralist Jack Carmody said he had already established a registry to keep track of property letters for his Goldfields cattle station, Prenti Downs.
Mr Carmody said he "firmly" supported the proposed changes to the property letter system.
"We've been approached on numerous times to sell property letters, and we disagree with the practice," he said.
In addition to the anticipated changes, Mr Carmody also believed a renewal process would be beneficial to better control the letters.
"This approach would ensure that a genuine need for firearm possession continues to exist," he said.
WA Police Minister Paul Papalia previously flagged a special gun licence could be created for farmers in Western Australia.
"We recognise that farmers and primary producers are a special case," he said.
Mr McGowan said "allowances" would be made for farmers who required guns in the running of their property.
"There might be restrictions on the number of guns, but we're working cooperatively with the farming groups," he said.
"I'm not particularly worried by them, I'm more worried about the proliferation of guns throughout the community, the towns and the suburbs, who don't have legitimate reasons."
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