To Right Hon Stuart Nash MP, Minister for Police
We note in your announcement on Monday 22 July which introduced your proposals for further changes to the Arms Act that you indicated that increases were due in the fees charged for issuing firearm licences and other administrative activities. You stated that dog registration cost significantly more than a firearm licence, which we concede, but note that the former is a council tax designed to finance local animal control officers and is therefore not a fair comparison.
As you yourself have pointed out the new changes to the Arms Act are all about improving public safety, we would therefore suggest that administration of the Act is largely for the public good and a significant part of the cost should be borne by the public purse, as has traditionally been the case, being split 50/50 with firearm users. The current figures of a total cost of $ 14 M compared to $ 4.1 M received from licence applications may be accounted for by the increased administrative cost of setting up new electronic systems and the reduction in licence applications resulting from slashing the number of testing venues implemented in July last year. We would also point out that the state already imposes additional financial burdens on licensed firearm owners, again in the interest of public safety, in providing security for the safe storage of firearms which is borne entirely by the owner.
Another reason for keeping licence fees low is to encourage people wishing to take up shooting to undertake the process of learning their responsibilities as a firearm owner together with safe handling practice and pass the test to gain a licence. This process has worked well since 1983 and resulted in a steady decline in the number of unintentional shooting incidents and the elimination of accidents involving young children. It is likely that a significant increase in the licence fee would dissuade some young people from undertaking the process, yet still see them using firearms in remote rural areas.
We would be interested in your rationale for increasing firearm administration fees beyond the 50/50 split between owners and the public purse that it has traditionally been.