gun dealer has lost his legal battle
with Australian Customs officials over
the importation of pistols from China –
and more than half his shipment worth
almost $US100,000 as well.
Ron Owen – principal of firearms dealer
Omeo Way – bought 3000 pistols from a
Chinese supplier for $US144,576
($188,788) in 2000 but Queensland Police
rescinded both shipments amid concerns
modifications to the guns could breach
Mr Owen then consigned the shipment to
Victorian dealer Granite Arms, with the
first batch arriving in March 2000 and
later transported north to the
But the second shipment of 2000 pistols
was seized when it arrived in May for
failing to comply with Customs
(Prohibited Imports) regulations.
Customs officials sought a legal
declaration the guns were special
forfeited goods and an order they be
forfeited to the Crown, while each of
the dealers took legal action arguing
the seizure was unlawful.
The dealers' legal teams argued that
Granite Arms was the importer as an
agent of Omeo Way and was entitled to
possess the guns for itself or as an
agent of Omeo Way.
The Federal Court dismissed Customs'
cross-claim that the pistols were
special forfeited goods, a decision that
was upheld on appeal by the Full Court
but yesterday overturned by the High
In the appeal, the dealers argued
Granite Arms was the importer and had a
licence to possess the shipments under
Victorian law, thus satisfying the
legislated police authorisation test,
but Customs contended being an importer
meant one designated entry and Granite
Arms could not substitute as the
importer for Omeo Way.
In a unanimous decision, the High Court
allowed the appeal by Customs and held
the handguns were "special forfeited
It was also ruled that, although Granite
Arms lent its name to Omeo Way for the
identification of the "consignee" on the
air waybill for the carriage of the
shipment to Australia, this did not make
it the importer.
The Australian government
does not have the power to make gun laws but
it can control imports. Gun laws are under
the the jurisdiction of the six states and
the two territories. So what's a Federal
Government going to do if the states and
territories don't follow its
unconstitutional wishes in respect of gun
laws? It makes gun laws by dressing them up
in Customs clothes. It enforces gun laws by
targeting individuals in Customs
prosecutions. So where's the High Court when
you need them?
It is the Australian
Government which is the vehicle of the
gun-control lobby, and neither of them are
happy at the exemptions and variations
to their authority being made by the
state jurisdictions, notwithstanding that it
is the state governments which are more
amenable to listening to what the voting
public really wants.
Ron Owen, perennial thorn in
the side of the Weapons Branch,
recently was recently vindicated in the
Supreme Court of Queensland after a fight
with the Queensland Police which had run the
course of several years. The Court held that
the QPWB proceedings against him were an
abuse of power.
This clearly didn't come as
any surprise to the PTB ("Powers That Be")
and they are an astute few, so they have
been developing an alternate plan - use the
Commonwealth's Customs powers to do what the
State Governments through their Police
Forces have failed to do.
In other words, they set out
to use (ie misuse) a valid Constitutional
head of power for a purpose for which it was
This isn't recent, but the
use of their powers to attack targeted
individuals appears to be.
Since 1991 certain
ex-military and military-style look-alike
firearms cannot be imported. In 1996 the
Australian government introduced a new and
stricter range of gun controls. Three major
changes were introduced. Gun registration
was introduced to all eight jurisdictions;
attempts were made to have uniform gun laws
throughout Australia; and a new standardised
gun licensing scheme was put into practice.
This new scheme allowed non-self-loading
guns to be readily available, but placed
restrictions on high capacity self-loading
rimfire rifles, self-loading centrefire
rifles and shotguns and pump-action
Several exemptions to the gun
licensing schedule were made by most State
jurisdictions. Members of certain shotgun
target shooting clubs were permitted to use
self-loading shotguns and many rural
property owners and professional shooters
were permitted to use self-loading rifles
In Australia, handguns have
only been available to bona-fide members of
approved pistol clubs and to gun
collectors. Non-self-loading long-guns were
readily available to Australians who are at
least 18 years of age, have no police record
and who pass a shooters licence test.
However, these State-wide
exemptions, variations, accommodations (call
them what you will) have been the burr under
the saddle of the anti-weapon groups,
and there have been pressures placed upon
the States to tighten even more the
anti-weapons regimes enforced by their
respective weapons control agencies.
Watch this space for a
crackdown on large capacity magazines, and
even further regulation of weapons "in the
spirit of the legislation."
Is the Australian Government
using Customs regulations to get around the
Constitutional limitations upon their
firearms powers? That's where the
smart money is being invested. I suggest
that you apply the Duck Test. If it looks
like a duck, quacks like a duck, waddles
like a duck....
Oh, sorry, I forgot. Duck
hunting is now illegal in this state.