TENSION over Australia’s gun legacy is palpable in NSW as the 20-year anniversary of the debate’s horrific catalyst rolls closer.
But while groups such as The Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers (SFF) and The Greens argue over the merit of the 1996 reforms - and whether further restrictions will protect or vilify law-abiding residents - Deputy Premier Troy Grant says government’s focus is not whether possession laws should tightened or loosened.
It is keeping illegal weapons out of the hands of hardened criminals.
The 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur Massacre has thrust gun reform back into the national spotlight, Mr Grant said his government had no plans to tamper with the strength of the NSW Firearms Act when it came to gun ownership and licensing.
“Legal gun owners in NSW already undergo stringent but necessary checks to ensure the safe use and storage of their firearms,” Mr Grant said.
Mr Grant’s real concern is illegal firearms.
Reforms passed last October mean a maximum penalty of 14 years’ prison now applies to a range of gun offences, including relating to unauthorised possession, use, supply, or acquisition of a prohibited firearm or pistol.
It is also illegal to have digital blueprints that allow firearms to be manufactured using 3D printers.
A recent Australian Crime Commission report conservatively estimated there were 250,000 long barrel guns and 10,000 handguns on the nation’s the illegal firearms market.
Halting this trade and lessening the statutory burden on recreational and sporting shooters, farmers, and legal gun owners has been a key plank of the argument put forward by SFF MP Robert Brown, both in recent weeks and throughout his time in parliament.
This month he appeared on the SBS forum Insight to claim the 1996 reforms pushed through by John Howard cast legitimate shooters as “criminals in waiting” while making it hard for them to obtain certain licenses.
An oft-quoted counterpoint has come from the NSW Greens – led by upper house MP David Shoebridege on the issue – who points out Australia has not seen a massacre since the National Firearms Agreement came into play.
Mr Shoebridge has also advocated for a five-gun limit to be introduced in NSW for each "good reason" for owning a firearm, after which point a "separate and extraordinary reason for owning each additional gun" should be made.