Firearms fixed in Government's sights

29 July 2003
By David Rood

Historic firearms could be destroyed as a result of the $118 million national handgun buyback scheme, collectors warned yesterday.

Under the scheme, which starts in Victoria on Friday, all pre-1900 percussion and post-percussion handguns must be registered and owners must have category one collectors' licences.

The president of the Historic Arms Collecting Council of Australasia, Gordon Morgan, said the council supported controls on concealable weapons, but putting antique firearms in the same category would "crush our heritage".

"We don't shoot these guns. We're custodians of our heritage," he said. "The collections in private hands are far greater than any museum in this country."

Mr Morgan said the firearms, worth up to $250,000 for pistols used by 19th-century bushrangers, were not a threat to the community.

He said owners would rather hand in their guns than go through the registration process, being photographed and fingerprinted.

They must now also install security doors and safes in the rooms where the arms are kept.

An alternative to the new legislation, Mr Gordon said, would be to allow bona fide members of collecting societies to purchase, show and exchange the weapons.

But a spokesman for state Police Minister Andre Haermeyer said that while there were many responsible gun owners and collectors, the measures agreed to by federal, state and territory governments ensured that handguns were used only for legitimate purposes.

"What we can't get away from here is that these are guns," the spokesman said. "The object of the national handgun buyback is to ensure that handguns don't make their way onto the streets."

Gun Control Australia president John Crook said the new storage requirements would be considered onerous by some, but they were needed because antique firearms could still cause harm if stolen and used.

"The public has every reason to want as strict a control as possible over every gun," Mr Crook said. The Federal Government expects to collect 65,000 weapons in the buyback and amnesty scheme.

This story can be found online here

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