A gun with a silencer attached.Tens of thousands of shooters in NSW can now apply for silencers on their weapons after the NSW government opened permit application forms to hunters and sporting shooters, a move gun control advocates have condemned as dangerous.
The Shooters and Fishers Party says it has successfully lobbied the NSW government to expand the reasons which shooters can cite on a form when seeking a permit to use a silencer.
Seeking silencers for use in “sport” shooting or recreational hunting has been added to the form. Previously there was only space for government employees or licensed contract animal shooters to apply.
There are about 200,000 gun licence holders in NSW. The NSW chapter of the Sporting Shooters Association claims 50,000 members.
The head of Gun Control Australia, Sam Lee, condemned the change of application form as a “gift to shooters”.
“The Baird government has done a deal with the gun lobby,” Ms Lee said. “Silencer[s] are banned in 11 states in US because they are considered too dangerous”.
Shooters must pay an application fee of about $120 to police and send a form outlining their reasons for wanting a silencer and undergo extensive checks.
Robert Borsak MLC, the leader of the Shooters and Fishers Party, said the change followed his lobbying of the NSW Deputy Premier and Police Minister, Troy Grant.
“There’s no reason, other than Hollywood mythology, why you wouldn’t have these legally and easily available,” he said. “If criminals were going to use them they’d be making them in their backyards and using them now.”
Mr Borsak said silencers would allow farmers to shoot feral animals more effectively and lessen noise pollution from sport shooting.
A spokesman for Mr Grant said the form had been changed to bring it into line with broader state law on possession and use of silencers, which remained unchanged.
The devices, which lessen but do not eliminate the sound of a gun going off, are legal in New Zealand and the UK.
About 12,000 shooters are licensed to hunt in NSW parks, according to a 2012 report.
Greens MLC David Shoebridge said he was concerned the relaxing of rules would lessen safety in parks.
“It’s deeply troubling,” Mr Shoebridge said. “Sometimes the only thing that can alert a bush walker [to hunters] in state forests is the sound of gun shots”.
Previous NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell ruled out allowing hunting with silencers in NSW National Parks, because of concerns about relaxing previously tight regulation of their use.
An expert from Griffith University’s Violence Research and Prevention Program, Dr Samara McPhedran, said there was little evidence silencers in other jurisdictions had fallen into criminals’ hands.
“It’s probably not cause for concern” she said. “[Hunting rifles] are not the weapons of choice for criminals. They prefer handguns”.
The NSW Police said it would continue to apply “the same rigorous processes” to all applications for silencers and that underlying laws governing their use had not changed.
“While the revised wording [on the form] may possibly lead to more applications for silencers, there is no change to the legislation or the process to enforce that legislation,” he said. “Incidents of the use of silencers by criminals in NSW remains low, but of course any use of a firearm or prohibited weapon by a criminal is of major concern”.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.