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In Rural Australia “Sensible Gun Laws” not so “Sensible”

Shortly after I started traveling into rural Australia, I found people willing to talk to me about firearms. When they learned I write about firearms, they were happy to have a conversation.

In the morning of July first, the day after I arrived in Australia, I packed up and pulled my wheeled luggage to the Central railway station in Sydney.  The staff at the station were very helpful. They printed out a ticket I had purchased over the Internet.  I boarded the train a half hour before departure. We left at 09:29

My seat mate happened to be traveling to Quirindi as well. It is a minor stop on the line, a bit over 200 miles from Sidney. We were of the same generation, and shared each other’s stories.  I told her I wrote about guns. She told me her father had taken her to the range and taught her to shoot pistols. She had shot revolvers and later, a semi-auto.

That was before the Port Arthur massacre on April 28, of 1996. The Port Arthur massacre was the spark used to pass the extremely restrictive Australian gun laws. The resolution to override state gun laws was agreed to a few days later, on May 10th.  The details of the plan had been created far earlier. There was intense pressure from the media and Prime Minister John Howard to pass “sensible gun law”. No real opposition was heard on the media. John Howard hated guns with a passion.

Australia went from a country with middle of the road gun laws, varying considerably from state to state, to one with extremely restrictive gun laws, almost overnight. Uniform national requirements for registration, waiting periods, treating airguns and replicas the same as real guns, were put in place in record time. No one is allowed to legally own a gun without stating a necessary purpose. Self defense is *not* considered a necessary purpose. Hundreds of thousands of guns were turned in to the government, paid for, and destroyed. No gun is allowed the be legally kept, except locked up and unloaded, with ammunition in a separate place, also locked up. These were touted as “sensible gun laws”.

My seat mate thought it a shame her children and grandchildren could not experience the same  things she had experienced growing up. The current generation is being taught to fear guns. She did not have hope for change in a positive direction.

The country side we traveled through was beautiful.  It reminded me of the Shire from the Lord of the Rings movies. I saw horses and cattle and crops, and a kangaroo in a field. An hour later, I saw a dozen or more kangaroos in a field on the other side.  There were park-like forests, a couple of working mines, and a lovely long lake.

We arrived in Quirindi on time at 14:37.  My friend, Curtis Eykamp, was there to greet me. We had met in Yuma while he was doing experimental agricultural work.

Curtis took me to the farm that his father, Roy, had built up. Roy is 99 years old, clear headed, and tells fascinating stories of shooting and hunting. Curtis’ son manages the farm.

Curtis’ brother, Don, drove into the farm yard shortly after we arrived. I was introduced. Don had been told I wrote about guns. He began talking about the problems of “sensible gun laws”. He asked that if I wrote about his case, that I explain to readers the result of “sensible gun laws” had been anything but sensible.

He has been at risk in a firearms case concerning “safe storage”, for more than two years. The case did not receive much publicity. More than 50 firearms were seized, most of them high dollar collectible Winchesters. The vast majority were super grade pre-64 model 70 rifles, with some original Colt cap and ball revolvers. The antique black powder revolvers are pricey, but are not required to be registered in Australia.

Most of the guns were in  two safes, but the doors were open. A third safe was locked. Donald said he had opened the safes that morning to take out a few rifles with the intent of zeroing them for hunting, changing scopes, and adjusting the sights.

It was the end of irrigation season. After weeks of hard work, he could take some time off. He took five minutes to go down to the pivot pump and shut it off. When he returned, the police were in the yard.

The case started about 8:30 in the morning of March 14, 2015 (fall in Australia). The case is ongoing. A district court ruled the guns should not be destroyed, but should be transferred to a dealer, and the proceeds returned to Donald.

He may not possess firearms, because his license was immediately canceled.  Donald Eykamp has paid 18,000 dollars in civil fines.  There are no criminal charges before the court.

The police appealed the ruling, claiming that more than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars of highly collectible firearms and high dollar scopes should be destroyed, along with the Colt cap and ball revolvers.

I will be talking to Don in the days ahead to get more details of the case and where it is in the legal system.

We ate supper and listened to tales from 99-year-old Roy when he hunted wolves from an airplane in Canada in 1954. We retired for the night.

The morning dawned crisp and clear.  Roy and I were in the living room.  I looked out the window, and an Eastern Gray Kangaroo hopped by about 70 yards past the window. Roy’s 99-year-old eyes are better than mine, but Roy was not looking out the window. Roy said he had not seen a kangaroo in the yard of the farm the entire 50 years he had been there.

Kangaroo tracks to the right of the hat

No one else had seen the kangaroo.  It was visible for a few seconds.  Minutes later, I checked for tracks.  I found them on a dirt driveway.

The political problems of firearms and regulation in rural Australia are similar to those in New York. Large metropolitan areas have most of the votes, and few firearm owners.  Rural areas have firearms, but not many votes. Australia has no Second Amendment.

Leaving a safe open for a few minutes while you travel to shut off a pump, on your own land, and return, is not much risk on an isolated farm where the only occupant is a prosperous, 72-year-old bachelor farmer.

But “sensible gun laws” are not applied “sensibly”. Crime is virtually never committed with high dollar, high grade pre-64 Winchester rifles topped with the finest European scopes. Original Colt cap and ball revolvers are not much of a problem when gangs are manufacturing submachine guns for their own use.

In Australia, even guns that are antiques, and not required to be registered, are required to be locked up. John Howard said it was “only sensible”.  Donald Eykamp has the means to fight the case in court. Not many do.

Rural Australians are paying the price of  former Prime Minister John Howard’s phobia.

©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.  Gun Watch

 

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