Is gun reform back on the agenda?

A rowdy question time on Tuesday saw Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull vehemently proclaim that Australia’s firearm ban regulations “will remain in place” for the foreseeable future.

These statements come after the Prime Minister was publically criticised by his predecessor Tony Abbott for reneging on a deal that would have made it legal to import a lever-action shotgun which can shoot more than five rounds.

Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm this week said the Turnbull Government had “dudded” him over a deal made last year. In 2015, he received a written commitment from the Coalition Government saying that it would lift the 12-month sunset clause on Adler lever-action guns, allowing them to be imported, “in exchange” for his vote in support of the Government’s legislation restoring the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

This was a strategic agreement for Leyonhjelm, who voted accordingly. However, the Prime Minister has since told Parliament the Government would “stand by the national firearms agreement”. In fact he said, “We want to see it stronger”.

Mr Turnbull said that is remains the Government’s objective “to ensure no Adler lever-action guns with more than five rounds can be imported – in any category. They can’t be imported at all!”

Tony Abbott, who appears to be vying to be reinstated as Prime Minister, and who originally stopped imports of the gun in July 2015, criticised Mr Turnbull’s actions on Tuesday night. He claimed that there was “no way on God’s Earth” he would have allowed eight-shot Adler guns to “flood into the country” while he was prime minister.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also accused the Liberal Party of entering into “grubby deals” for its own gain, and stated gun reforms instigated by former Liberal PM John Howard following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre should be upheld.

The ABCC bill, which seeks to reinstate the building industry watchdog, passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon, though its fate is yet to be decided in the Senate.

It was expected that Leyonjhelm would vote for the bill, however, he had said he would not commit to any promises beyond talking to the Government.

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Opinion: Sounds like a floodgate opening

Who among us doesn’t receive the news of another shooting in America with just a flicker of relief that it is unlikely to happen here? In Australia, we allowed this type of tragedy to happen just once before we took action and enacted some of the toughest gun laws in the world.

Following the Port Arthur Massacre of 1996, in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded when Martin Bryant opened fire at the historical site. John Howard led a world-first buy-back of firearms. Since then, there hasn’t been another massacre.

Proving the success of the campaign, a recent study revealed that the overall rate of firearm killings in the country has declined. Everyone, from Hilary Clinton to Barack Obama and John Oliver (check out the video below) agreed it’s a good model.

Twenty years on, who would have thought gun reform would ever be back on the table?

What’s so special about this gun, anyway?

Senator Leyonhjelm says there is “nothing unusual” about the Adler A110 shotgun, except that it’s a cheaper firearm for farmers, compared to pump-action options. It is said to be more effective for shooting groups of animals, such as pigs and birds, which destroy crops and properties.

The firearm can shoot up to eight rounds in eight seconds. In July 2015, the Abbott government suspended imports following concerns it undermined the Howard-era National Firearms Agreement.

If brought back, it would supposedly be restricted for use by farmers and people with a “specific need” for using the weapon. Sounds a bit like a floodgate opening, doesn’t it?

As to the political aspect of this issue, we’ve witnessed another bout of flip-flopping in an unstable government. While Mr Turnbull had previously appeared to have cut a deal with a Liberal Sentor in exchange for a vote (and more recently, refused to rule out negotiating on the Adler), he yesterday confirmed he would “stand by the national firearms agreement”. There’s nothing new to be said here: politicians are endless fonts of promises and backdoor deals. Is this just another manipulation to conceal some other hidden intention? We’ll wait and see.

 John Oliver compares America’s gun reform laws to Australia’s.

Written by Amelia Theodorakis

A writer and communications specialist with eight years’ in startups, SMEs, not-for-profits and corporates. Interests and expertise in gender studies, history, finance, banking, human interest, literature and poetry.

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