Collectors up in arms over antique gun laws

14 April 2003
By Phillip Hudson, Political Correspondent

Owners of antique pistols will be forced to undergo safety training, fingerprinting and required to install monitored alarms under gun laws before State Parliament.

Collectors of historical and heritage pistols are calling on federal and state governments to reverse a decision to impose the new licence and registration rules as part of the national hand gun ban to begin on July 1.

Victorian Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild spokesman, Malcolm McKay, said that in most cases these guns could not be fired as they required special ammunition, such as powder and lead balls, which was not commercially available.

Dr McKay said it was a heavy-handed decision that would have no effect on stopping gun-related crime, but would cost individual collectors of pre-1900 hand guns thousands of dollars to comply.

"It is ridiculous for the Government to imply that criminals use these," he said.

"We wrote to federal and state governments asking for evidence where historical guns had been used in crime. None of them could provide any evidence.

"We think the last time a muzzle-loading pistol was used in this way was during the breakout of the Kelly Gang."

Dr McKay said most collectors of antique guns were company directors, managers, retired people, engineers, farmers, surgeons and pilots.

"These are extremely valuable items which can be up to 200 years old," he said.

"They are bought by collectors in the same way that fine art is bought."

Dr McKay said the new laws would require collectors to undergo safety training, even though they did not shoot heritage pistols because it could damage the guns and reduce their value.

A spokeswoman for federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison said the change was decided at the Council of Australian Governments meeting last year that set new national bans on hand-guns.

"The ministers around the country want to know where all the hand-guns in Australian are, including the old ones," she said.

"This will bring all pre-1900 hand guns into line with the requirements which are already in place for collectors of post-1900 hand guns."

A spokesman for the Victorian Government said antique guns would have to be registered in line with national guidelines and the Government soon would meet with the guild.

This story can be found in The Age - Monday, 14 April 2003.

© Copyright 2005 The Antique and Historical Arms Collectors Guild of Victoria. All rights reserved.