The Courier-Mail (09-09-05) by Leanne Edmistone


A QUEENSLAND 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dealer Omeo Way – bought 3000 pistols from a Chinese supplier for $US144,576 ($188,788) in 2000 but Queensland Police rescinded both shipments amid concerns modifications to the guns could breach weapons laws.

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 Queensland company.

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 Court.

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 goods".

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 never intended.

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 shotguns.

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 and shotguns.

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.