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Buyback announcement catches WAFTA off guard

Daniel RooneyNarrogin Observer
WA Firearms Traders Association president Bevan Steele.
Camera IconWA Firearms Traders Association president Bevan Steele. Credit: Daniel Rooney

The February 14 announcement that a range of high-calibre firearms will be outlawed in Western Australia from July took WA Firearms Traders Association president Bevan Steele by surprise.

“There’s been very loose consultation,” Mr Steele said, “Nothing around this.”

Mr Steele, who owns a gun dealership based in Narrogin, said he believed that the amount of money that the WA Government has set aside for the scheme is insufficient.

“They’re saying that they’ve allocated $1.5 million for it. Our initial estimate is that this figure is going to blow out,” Mr Steele said

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“The money could be better spent on education in our regional areas, on health — it could definitely be better spent on police resources to catch the illegal importers of firearms.”

Mr Steele said that the February announcement by the McGowan Government had left many in the WA firearms industry with questions.

“There are mum and dad businesses that are tooled up to make these firearms for the East Coast,” he said.

“We have some very, very good gun builders in WA that are well regarded, they build them here and send them over east, and we don’t know what’s going to happen to them.”

Outside of use in feral animal management, Mr Steele said that WA’s high-calibre firearms were mainly in the hands of cashed-up hobbyists.

“The firearms themselves are mainly held by people who are buying Porches and Ferraris for their first cars,” he said.

“They take their hobbies very seriously, they spend a lot of money on the firearms and on ensuring their hobbies don’t get stolen.”

The high calibre ban has been enacted by Premier Mark McGowan at the request of WA Police.

“The Western Australian Police Force has informed me there is no practical need for these specific very high-powered firearms in WA,” Mr McGowan said in the February announcement.

“While they remain in our community, these weapons are vulnerable to falling into the wrong hands, and the consequences could be devastating.”

The deadline for WA gun owners to surrender their high calibre weapons is July 1, 2023.

“They’ve given us three months, which isn’t a long time,” Mr Steele said.

“There are three ways we can get rid of them. They can be rendered, blocked up and hung on the wall, we can take whatever money the Government will give us, or try to find a buyer interstate and ship them to one of the places where they are allowed.”

WA Police have been contacted for comment.

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