If you’re a licensed shooter, you’ve no doubt loaned a firearm to a suitably licensed shooter mate, on occasion. In fact, you can do so for up to thirty days without a problem.

Except in Tasmania. Here, you may be engaged in “firearms trafficking”.

A ruling by Tasmania’s Court of Criminal Appeal has raised questions about whether a licensed shooter borrowing a rifle from another licensed shooter potentially counts as firearms trafficking, effectively meaning gun owners could be unwittingly committed a serious crime.

The ruling was prompted by a court case in Tasmania’s Central Coast region. When police searched Lachlan Taylor’s home and car last year, they found an air rifle and a home-made pistol. Turner allegedly traded the firearms for a couple of packets of fags. Prosecutors claimed that, because Turner transported two firearms between two locations, he was guilty of trafficking.

The court disagreed, and Turner was unanimously acquitted.

But it was what happened next that has licensed shooters in Tasmania alarmed.

The Tasmanian Attorney-General responded to the acquittal by issuing a Reference that ruled that, under the wording of Section 110A of Tasmania’s Firearms Act 1996, someone who is not the registered owner of a firearm may now face firearms trafficking charges for transporting that gun.

The relevant wording is:

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), a person is taken to traffic in firearms without lawful excuse if –

(a) the firearms are registrable firearms; and…

(i) sells or otherwise disposes of the firearms to any other person (whether or not that other person is in Tasmania);

(ii) receives or delivers the firearms from or to any other person (whether or not that other person is in Tasmania);

Firearms Act 1996

Even though the firearms Taylor was prosecuted for were illegal, the court’s ruling applies equally to registered firearms and licensed shooters.

A strict reading of the law seems to confirm that it is a criminal offence to move any firearms other than your own from one place to another, but its application may come down how the phrase “lawful excuse” fits in.

So, if one licensed shooter even loans a registered firearm to another licensed shooter, they are, under Tasmanian law, “firearms trafficking”.

As the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party point out, the strict reading of the ruling may mean that police are routinely breaking the law.

“My understanding is that by a strict interpretation of this ruling, every police officer in Tasmania carrying a firearm on duty is engaging in firearms trafficking, since their guns are registered to Tasmania Police and not the individual officer,” he said.

No doubt the government will rush to “clarify” that police are not, in fact, routinely breaking the law. Sporting shooters have little confidence that they will benefit from similar haste.

Shooters Union Australia president [Graham Park] described the situation as “mind-boggling” and said it defied all logic.

“How on Earth could it not be legal for someone licensed to own particular types of firearm to borrow a compliant gun from another licensed person?” he said.

“This is going to cripple shooting clubs, as it will mean they can no longer lend club-registered firearms to licensed members for use at the range.

“It will have a profound impact on hunting, as hunters wanting to borrow a suitable rifle to hunt game they don’t usually pursue will not be able to do so.

“Can you imagine if it was illegal to lend someone with a driver’s licence your car, and if you did, you’d both end up in jail?

Sporting Shooter

Proof, yet again, that knee-jerk laws made in a panic are invariably bad laws.

The legislation in question was rushed through in response to the Port Arthur mass shooting. It was, as we see, ill-thought-out legislation. One of its first effects was to ban paintball in Tasmania for nearly twenty years. The harmless paintball guns were deemed, under the Act, to be “semi-automatic weapons”. It took until 1996 for the Hodgman Liberal government to amend the ridiculous ban.

With the Libs in minority government now, don’t expect Labor and the Greens to let them fix yet another unintended consequence of bad legislation.

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...