On the heels of the monumental battle that was waged to have Tasmania fall in line with the rest of the world to legalise paintball, Tasmania Police has seen fit to ban an activity call Gel Ball.
The gel blasters shoot small round gelatine balls that bust into water spray on impact with a solid object. At point-blank range, the balls disintegrate on bare skin.
A rock picked up off the ground or a length of wood would cause a magnitude more injury. As innocuous as these toys are, Tasmania Police has deemed them firearms. After jumping through countless hoops a Launceston Gel Ball club secured an exemption to run gel ball competitions, only to be told recently that the exemption is revoked and to surrender their gel blasters to the police. As hard as it is to believe, one of the conditions that they had to comply with was to store these toys in a compliant gun safe, the same as bona fide firearms.
By any metric, this competition is just harmless fun and toys are specifically excluded from the Act. The gel ballers have got caught up in the subliminal war waged by politically correct elements of society against firearm ownership where law-abiding firearm owners are somehow vicariously responsible for all gun crime.
The Firearms Act was purportedly introduced to protect public safety.
On what basis can the banning of multi-coloured plastic sci-fi themed toys be a danger to the public?
In any case, the National Firearms Agreement had nothing to do with public safety.
During an interview on a Sydney radio station in 2002, John Howard said “we will restrict them at every opportunity. I hate guns. There is no earthly reason for people to… citizens should not have weapons”. John Howard did not say crims, thugs and murderers should not have firearms – just citizens.
As Roland Browne stated in this paper, he was opposed to the gun culture (whatever that is) to justify the gel ball ban.
It needs to be pointed out that the deadliest mass killing in Australia before Port Arthur was the 1973 Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing (15 dead). The three deadliest mass killing since Port Arthur are the Childers Backpackers fire (15 dead), Churchill fire (11 dead) and the Quackers Hill Nursing Home fire (14 dead) and more recently, fire was used to murder Hannah Baxter and her three children.
Despite this, matches and drums of fuel are not restricted but gel blasters are.
These toys are nerf guns modified to shoot the gelatine balls. Watch this space – if these objects are banned; any other toy that we enjoyed as children will also be in line.
I can foresee that cap guns will one day be banned because someone reported the sound of “gunfire” from kids playing cowboys and Indians. The justification for banning these toys is a very creative interpretation of the Firearms Act.
Tasmania Police claims that they use compressed air and therefore are air rifles.
The problem with that interpretation is that a rifle of any type has grooves in the barrel to stabilise a projectile ie rifling.
These toys are smooth bore the same as BB guns which shoot small plastic and metal pellets and are freely available in any corner shop in Europe and are common in firearm restricted Japan, but not here.
The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has called for an independent Firearms Ombudsman who is at arm’s length from Tasmania Police to deal with issues such as these. Bona Fide firearm owners have long had issues that should have been dealt with by an Ombudsman before facing the threat of losing their licence or firearms.
If a firearm owner doesn’t get a renewal notice in the mail and doesn’t get a reminder 14 days after the expiry date, a police officer will turn up at the door and confiscate their firearms. If they want them back, they are required to sit the license test again.
Just imagine how you would feel if the Transport Department didn’t send you a reminder and they then confiscated your vehicle until you resat your driver’s license test? How many people know that their driver’s license is about to expire unless they get a reminder? This has happened to two out of the seven members of my deer hunting party. Firearms Services have admitted that this is a problem. That this is the result of the Registry being underfunded and under-resourced. The Registry has these people’s phone number on file so a courtesy call or a text would go a long way to preserving good relations between the police and firearm owners.
A couple of years ago the police decided that they will ban certain types of target type firearms because they claim that these firearms are in breach of Schedule 1.6 of the Act ie that the firearm substantially duplicates in appearance a machine gun. The features that the police listed proved to be problematic because all of those characteristics are on the Olympic standard air rifles.
Despite some of these firearms being worth thousands of dollars, no one has yet been compensated for the financial loss.
This is another reason why, as we approach the 25th anniversary of our gun laws, it is time to simplify them and eliminate these “gotcha” laws and regulations that target harmless law-abiding citizens.
We should instead look at mandatory minimum sentences for firearm theft and career criminals committing serious gun crimes.
- Carlo Di Falco, Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party and the Arms Collectors Guild member