Debate on gun control laws in danger of going too far

THERE is always debate when it comes to gun control legislation.

The State Government is bringing in mandatory prison sentences for anyone found to be possessing, supplying or trafficking in illegal weapons - with the sentences ranging from 12 months to five years.

Sure enough, both sides of the gun control debate have come out in force, arguing their points of public safety v individual rights 'til they turn blue in the face.

You might think someone who received an air rifle as an infant for an outback christening present would be on the pro-guns side of the debate (of course it was many years before I was allowed to actually use that air rifle).

You'd be wrong.

I have always enjoyed hunting, and firing a rifle well is a great exercise in concentration, accuracy and nerve.

But a strict level of gun control is a good thing.

Only an imbecile who should be kept as far away as possible from any sort of firearm at all would argue that guns are not inherently dangerous.

Of course guns are dangerous - they are one of the most dangerous products a person can possess, and therefore it is only right that they should be extremely difficult to possess.

That said, there is something about these latest gun laws that rankles.

Last week, the Queensland Police Service and Crime Stoppers issued a joint press release, in which Queensland residents were actively encouraged to inform on their neighbours if they happened to own an unregistered fire-arm.

It's important to note this was not a call just for people to dob in someone they knew had a collection of fully automatic assault weapons in their garage or the like - this was about any firearm at all, if it happened to be unregistered.

There are two problems with this.

Firstly, having spent much time reporting in court, I am certain that after these laws are introduced there will be several people across the state who will find themselves with a mandatory 12 month prison sentence who do not deserve it.

Farmers who register all their guns but just forgot about that spare .410 they keep handy for snakes, or people who have Grand-dad's old .303 from the war and didn't think to register it because they're pretty sure the rusted old thing doesn't even work, or other like examples.

Secondly, the idea of people in authority encouraging residents to inform on their neighbours to be jailed on a mandatory sentence for a seemingly minor offence just turns the stomach.

It is not a normal Crime Stoppers activity, like someone calling to report they know a face released to the public in a photo related to an ongoing criminal investigation.

It is Orwellian, and has no place in our society.

Gun ownership should be and is tightly controlled in this state - but that control is in danger of going too far.

Topics:  editorial gun control legislation opinion state government

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