The number of guns a licensed owner can possess in Western Australia would be limited under proposed new laws, as the state government unveils more detail on its firearms crackdown.

Premier Roger Cook, Police Minister Paul Papalia, and WA Police Commissioner Col Blanch on Monday outlined key changes to be considered in the Firearms Act review, seeking to make the state’s laws the “toughest in the country.”

Mr Cook said they expect the reforms to reduce the number of guns in the community from about 360,000 — more than double what it was in 2009 — down to about 347,000.

“WA is the last jurisdiction to rewrite its firearm legislation since the Port Arthur massacre,” Mr Cook said.

“Unfortunately, there have been a number of high-profile gun incidents during recent years. These examples of the unlawful use of firearms highlight the need for this important reform.

“The reforms strike a balance between legitimate, responsible gun ownership and enhanced public safety.”

The proposal would see the creation of eight specialist gun license types, which would then put a cap on the number of total guns an individual can own — an Australian first.

For example, recreational shooters and hunters would only be allowed five guns, while farmers and pastoralists can own up to 10.

A competition shooter can also have up to 10 firearms, but could apply for more if they’re competing at an elite level.

Mr Papalia said he expects the laws to only impact about five per cent of total license holders.

“Public safety is paramount, and that has been the key consideration when drafting the proposed legislation,” he said.

“If there are fewer firearms in the community, there are fewer opportunities for them to be used illegally.”

Gun owners who presently own more than the proposed amount would need to “dispose” of the weapons before any proposed changes come into effect, either by selling or surrendering them.

Details of any state-funded voluntary buyback scheme will be announced next year, but like previous buybacks, owners will only be compensated for the firearms themselves, not ammunition or accessories.

Police Commissioner Blanch said illicit firearms pose a significant risk to the safety of the community and to his officers.

“We know that licensed firearms can quickly become illicit firearms and be traded in the underworld,” Commissioner Blanch said.

“That is why it is so important that we make sure that only firearms that need to be in the community remain licensed, and that they are stored and secured appropriately by their owners.”

The Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) is welcoming the move.

CEO Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin said the fewer guns in any community means the lesser chance of gun violence.

“The 1996 National Firearms Agreement – updated in 2017 – was only ever a minimum standard, which most jurisdictions have still yet to meet,” he said.

“We look forward to examining the detail in the Firearm Bill Consultation Paper.

“But we are optimistic that this will set a new benchmark for gun safety laws in Australia for other the States and Territories to follow.”

Monday’s announcements will be included in the consultation paper, to be released on Tuesday.

Read related topics:Perth


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