Collectors fear looming gun law

Rohan Wade
14 April 2003

Australia's military heritage is disappearing into private overseas collections as collectors of antique guns shed their pistols ahead of a national crackdown, arms collectors said last week.

The Arms Collectors Guild of Tasmania said that rare pistols worth tens of thousands of dollars had already come up for sale in the UK in the past few weeks as owners tried to cash in their collections before firearm registration slashed their value.

Guild president Jeff Blackmore said 19th century percussion pistols would need to be registered if legislation went through.

Legislation was introduced into State Parliament last week following an agreement between state and Federal governments last year to reduce the number of pistols in circulation after a fatal shooting at Melbourne's Monash University.
Mr Blackmore said it was ludicrous that antique percussion pistols had been caught up in the crackdown, and they should have the same exemption from registration as flintlock pistols.

He said registering antique pistols dramatically decreased their value. "Once they're registered, the authorities know about them, and in the future that means they could be taken away, so their value drops," he said.

A firearm's value would plummet even further if registration required a serial number to be stamped or engraved on the pistol.

"Any marks other than the original maker's marks detract from the pistol," he said.

The guild, one of three antique firearm groups in the State, fears that the country's military history will head overseas as collectors try to realise the pistols' value before registration.

"No one in Australia would pay the money for them, because they'll be in the same boat, so sellers will head to either the UK or the US," he said.

Mr Blackmore said a rare NSW Naval Brigade Colt percussion pistol had come up for sale in the UK recently, and other prominent Tasmanian collectors said it was not the first rare Australian-owned pistol to have done so since the legislation had been flagged.

"Some people have their superannuation tied up in their collections, so they are really concerned they're either losing money or some politician is going to take away their collection," he said.

A six-month amnesty for pistol owners to hand in their firearms will begin on July 1, with compensation available to licence holders.

This article can be found in The Examiner - Monday, 14 April 2003.

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