Tassie Police ‘prohibit’ rifles on their looks

Last month, the Tasmanian Police declared as ‘prohibited’ a few rifles based on the appearance of those rifles.  They said the appearance ‘substantially duplicated’ the appearance of a fully automatic firearm.

Punishing Australian industry

One of the prohibited firearms was the very popular Australian-made Warwick WFA1, a straight-pull (ie not full-automatic) rifle.  The WFA1 shares a lot of features with foreign semi-automatic rifles, such as the semi-automatic AR-15, without even being a semi-automatic.  “Who cares that the WFA1 isn’t a semi- or full-auto?”, say Tasmanian Police.  “Let’s ban it because it looks like a full-auto if you squint at it from 50m away!”

What does ‘duplicates’ really mean?

The WFA1 has to “duplicate” the appearance of a fully-automatic firearm to be declared prohibited.  “James” explained this test quite well in the comments to section of Sporting Shooter online.  James wrote:

Carefully reading the appearance clause and the clause it refers to leads me to believe they’re trying to stretch the law quite a bit beyond it’s clear meaning. The key term in the clause is “duplicates”. That term has a very specific meaning.
To duplicate is to make an exact copy. “Substantially Duplicates” just means it doesn’t have to be a precise copy in every aspect but “Duplicates” arguably implies a clearly recognizable copy of a specific model of firearm of a type captured by sub-clause 1.
Really the appearance clause is quite specific when read closely.
The only way it could become subjective to the individuals opinion is if “Appearance” was the key term as the police seem to be wanting to imply. For that to be the case “Duplicates” would have to be omitted. “Appearance” as it’s included in the clause clearly means external visual appearance to exclude internal components and materials.
Read the clauses carefully keeping in mind the meaning of the term “duplicates” and it’ll become quite clear the intended targets of the appearance clause are firearms made to be visual replicas of actual machine guns.

Reasons for decision

We live in Australia.  In Australia, administrative decision-makers who are prohibiting something have to give reasons for their decision to prohibit the thing being prohibited.  Unfortunately, we can’t find any published reasons for the Tasmanian Police decision to prohibit the WFA1.  The public material we’ve been able to find doesn’t even say which fully automatic firearm the WFA1 is said to ‘duplicate’.  We’ve asked the Tasmanian Police these key questions:

Can you please provide the reasons for decision for the decision to classify the WFA1 as a prohibited firearm? Who was the FCAC (Committee advising on the classification) comprised of? What were their qualifications? What was the firearm that the WFA1 substantially duplicated the appearance of?

Stay tuned.