Date: Tue, Aug 16, 2022 at 6:52 PM
Subject: One step forward, three steps backwards at Weapons Licensing Branch
Cc: <Taylor.PaulG@police.qld.gov.au>, Police <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Assistant Commissioner,
I write about the chronic delays to applications, over-handling of applications and economic vandalism provided by the Weapons Licensing Branch of the Service. The current delays and unnecessary disputes initiated by Weapons Licensing Branch are bringing significant Queensland industries to breaking point. They are also a frustration and inconvenience for tens of thousands of shooters who just want to comply with the Weapons Act and carry on with life – as opposed to being dragged into disputes that the QPS is regularly losing at conciliation in QCAT. I will outline the detail with the sincere hope that you, as the senior leader of this branch, can recognise the problem and perhaps respond with what QPS is doing about it.
Delays in issuing permits to acquire
A few short years ago, Weapons Licensing introduced an online portal which, for a time, represented a big step forward. If you were an existing firearms license holder and applying for an uncontroversial longarm, like a bolt action rifle, your permit application would typically be auto-issued in 2-3 days by the online processing system. This was a big step forward for licensees and industry. The benefits were real and tangible: farmers and professional shooters could get needed equipment in a timely way, while dealers would minimise their costs holding stock. Automatic risk rules had been built into the back-end of the portal, so that applications for uncontroversial firearms would flow automatically through processing. What a win-win that was for QPS, industry and the public.
This automatic processing has been disabled. Wait times on basic permits now exceed 30 days. Wait times on some permits exceed 90 days. This is the worst that delays have been in over a decade. It carries an economic cost for farmers, professional shooters and firearms dealers. Foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease is now threatening the Australian livestock industry – so much so that the Prime Minister has announced a $10m program to try out in front of a looming problem. This comes on top of record feral pig numbers throughout Queensland. Pest control in Queensland is facing a natural crisis (feral pigs and disease) and an artificial crisis (caused by QPS). The Service should feel a twinge of guilt about putting farmers and businesses in this situation, but reports from dealer meetings with the Branch indicate the Branch is proud of their accomplishment.
Delays in licenses and renewals
The renewal of firearms licenses is likewise the slowest in more than a decade. New licenses are taking more than six months to issue, while renewals are taking so long past the expiry of the old license that shooters are threatening to file applications to the Supreme Court under the Judicial Review Act 1991 to require QPS to decide their licenses. Typically, a written warning of the intent to do so produces an immediate reaction from Weapons Licensing Branch: renewal of their license. Perhaps we encourage all shooters to start filing Supreme Court applications without prior warning to Weapons Licensing Branch. Conceivably, at least 280 people per week would be entitled to do so. If even 5% began to do so, your litigation service would be overwhelmed in a month.
Refusing as many as possible
We suspect a portion of the problems outlined above are cultural. One of the civilian leaders of the branch last month exclaimed “I don’t know anything about guns” at a meeting with dealers. However, there is little doubt that the Auditor-General’s report of 2020 – with all its spectacular and unmanifested fear-mongering – has thrown a lot of sand into the few and unlubricated intellectual gears at Weapons Licensing Branch.
Weapons Licensing Branch have adopted an extremely aggressive position, refusing renewals and discouraging applications for:
1. Managed health conditions that do not represent medical unfitness,
2. Minor offences that do not amount to unfitness to hold a firearms license – such as one applicant who had a single offence in his history for cannabis possession where no conviction was recorded,
3. Mere political opinions – such as this case (linked) where an applicant was assessed to have expressed a belief in the use of guns for self-defence, but where it turned out the social media account wasn’t even his!
As you would expect, many people who are refused appeal to QCAT and the matter settles at conciliation (with the issue of a license) without proceeding to hearing.
We offer a last, but important, observation on the handling of QCAT matters by Weapons Licensing Branch. The Branch is very quick to appeal adverse QCAT decisions where it thinks a matter of principle is involved: such as when a farmer applied to use suppressors to control feral pigs ( QCATA 159). The Branch evidently felt public safety was in issue (naturally, we don’t agree, but we can see the idea the Branch held). The Branch was also very quick to appeal against a farmer keeping his concealable firearms license for euthanizing stock and feral pests in rough country ( QCATA 177).
No such appeal was lodged against the QCAT decision to allow Daniel Young to continue to hold a firearms license ( QCAT 629). Mr Young had two convictions for dishonesty offences and had been sentenced to (and served) 6 months of multi-year sentence imposed by the District Court. I encourage you to read the particulars of this wrong-headed decision by QCAT, which we say entirely misapplied the fit-and-proper person test. Mr Young is currently in Police custody as a suspect in a triple murder in rural Queensland. If Weapons Licensing Branch is so keen to appeal matters of principle, why wasn’t this bizarre decision appealed? Weapons Licensing might be on its way to acquiring the distinction of ‘losing more people than they save’ – a profound argument against their pen-pushing existence.
For the rural, professional and dealership community, this miserable state of affairs is unacceptable even in the short term. There is no reason to see the situation improving in the medium term, despite the exit of Rachel Chan – the Acting Inspector that said body camera footage of home safe inspections would be retained by QPS in accordance with general camera policy (Why antagonise people in their own homes? Just a strange approach).
There is no initiative from within the Branch to reform Weapons Licensing. The shooting community, including dealers, has a wide economic capacity to enforce consequences against QPS for this situation. You’re just putting the kindling out there.
It would be so much better for everyone if QPS got its own house in order, but you should understand everyone is arranging their affairs on the footing that won’t happen. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss these matters further.
For Law Abiding Firearm Owners Inc