The Police State Comes Closer

A guest post by David Leyonhjelm

Legislation currently before the South Australian parliament introduces a new concept in law enforcement – Firearms Prohibition Orders. It is a further step in the advance of the police state.

The SA Minister for Police says the legislation is a response to the Tonic Nightclub shootings last year and “targets criminals such as criminal bikie gangs and their associates that resort too readily to violence to advance their illegal activities.”

He also says it represents a “first step in a process of refocusing the attention of police from regulation of the legitimate firearms community toward combating criminals who wield firearms in the pursuit of their criminal endeavours.”

The explanation to the Bill says that the focus should be on the behaviour of persons rather than the firearm itself. That all sounds good. Sporting shooters have long argued that the focus of the law should be on those who use guns for illegal purposes, not those who harm nobody else. However, as with similar laws involving drugs and terrorism, the consequences go well beyond what is intended. What the government says and what it is doing are quite different.

The key purpose of the Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) is to give the police a new tool to control bikie gangs by focusing on access to guns. However, the legislation does not define a ‘criminal bikie’ and FPOs are not confined to them. Rather, it relies on the term ‘fit and proper person’. Thus, apart from applying to anyone with a known history of serious crime or violence, FPOs can also be applied to anyone suspected of being a danger to life or property if they possess a firearm. Life includes their own.

The Bill places a legal onus on medical professionals to report to the Registrar anyone they consider ‘may’ be a risk to themselves or others if they possessed firearms. They are indemnified if they get it wrong.

There are two types of FPOs – interim and full. Interim FPOs can be issued by any police officer with the verbal authority of their supervisor, or without authority by a Sergeant or above. The intended subject can be arrested for up to 2 hours to allow the order to be served. The subject must notify the Registrar of his/her address and the FPO expires 28 days after notification unless made permanent by the Registrar. (Presumably if the Registrar is not notified the FPO remains in effect.)

Full FPOs are issued by the Registrar of firearms and continue until revoked. A FPO can be imposed ‘in the public interest’ based on criminal intelligence. Although there is provision for appeal to a court, the intelligence cannot be disclosed. The subject is thus unable even to correct inaccuracies.

A person against whom a FPO is in force must not acquire, possess or use a firearm, firearm part or ammunition. They may not reside in premises where there is a firearm or attend a firearms range or dealership. Those subject to full FPOs can be stopped and searched on sight and their place of residence inspected for firearms or ammunition at ‘any reasonable time’. The police may also require a person who they suspect of committing a firearms-related offence to give their name and answer questions about the firearm. It will be an offence not to do so.

Anyone breaching a Firearms Prohibition Order faces a maximum penalty of a $75,000 fine and up to 15 years imprisonment. So based on all that, here’s my list of the main affronts in this legislation. There may be more.

1. The law focuses on suspicion, not behaviour. Suspicion of suicidal thoughts or association with bikies is sufficient to be subjected to extreme coercion. After being repeatedly searched and required to answer questions, most people will probably be in breach of some aspect of the law anyway. Perhaps that’s the intention.

2. The right to remain silent has been lost.

3. The right to take your own life is compromised.

4. No warrant is required to search the home of someone to whom a FPO applies.

5. Sporting shooters will be even more reluctant to discuss their health with doctors, particularly when it involves something like depression.

6. The State reserves for itself sole right to firearms, insisting others may have them only as a privilege.

7. Corrupt police will be able to use the law to their benefit. South Australia has no anti-corruption organisation.

The full text of the Bill is on the Coalition of Law Abiding Sporting Shooters (CLASS) website here.

20 thoughts on “The Police State Comes Closer

  1. It would be great if there was a way to keep arms out of the hands of VIOLENT criminals, however that will never be the case, no, this will not even stop it.

    All this will achieve is to disarm some more legitimate gun owners, and in the process give those police who wish to do so the power to break down doors and vandalize the homes of anyone they have the shits with.

  2. The entire effort to control firearms is grounded in the psychic fears that accompany a belief that human beings are inherently evil, selfish, and prone to error. In short, gun control is one of the mantras of a deeply pessimistic psychology which sees ‘defanging’ and ‘declawing’ as the only viable method of controlling humanity’s basic predatory nature.

    Ultimately, totalitarianism will be the result of complete gun control.

  3. totalitarianism will be the result of complete gun control

    I fear that’s true, but the main point of the post was to illustrate the parallels with terrorism and drugs laws.

    Both are motivated by a moral panic. Both assert strong action is needed because of the urgency of the the issue. Both claim that a limited loss of liberty is justified.

    Once freedom is lost in this way, it can’t be regained. We don’t have a Bill of Rights and Supreme Court that can throw out the legislation Even if terrorism, drugs and bikie gangs are all defeated, there will be something else. There always is.

  4. How does it work that doctors have a “legal onus” to report something and yet they are “indemnified if they get it wrong”? Isn’t this saying that you must do X unless you don’t do X?

  5. Doctors are legally obliged to dob you in if they think you might pop yourself with a gun.

    If the doctor is wrong and you were merely a bit down about not winning a national shooting championship, you can’t sue the doctor because your front door was kicked in and your $5000 gun seized by the police.

  6. Is there any provision then for an indemnity or liability fund to those who get unjustly treated, if we do not doctors to be punished for fulfilling legislative obligations?

  7. Getting compensated is only feasible when the law is broken. Even then it’s rare.

    The law allows the police to kick in your door and search your house if you are subject to a FPO. That’s the point.

  8. I can’t believe I missed and you didn’t summarise 8. – the checks and balances of judicial oversight (such as for an interim AVO) are non existent for both the interim and full FPOs themselves and residual search powers.

    This is the most worrying aspect. What if it is decided that any other kind of order (AVO) search warrants etc are too important for judicial oversight?

    I think this is a strong argument for a bill of rights or at least revising our constitution along US lines.

  9. Yeah, we’ve been hearing a great deal of rhetoric over “tough on bikies” crap from politicians over the last 10 years in Sth Australia. Unfortunately it’s not all talk either. The government has made some freedom violating laws in regards to mandatory drug tests for security workers and aggresive police state powers against bikie gangs and their associates.

    What I find most disappointing however is that the heads of police are so supportive of many of these measures (such as the FPO). – perhaps their political obedience helps them climb the police job ladder, I don’t know.
    But you’d think policemen would want to genuinely protect people and if not, at least they’d want to decrease their workload and focus on real criminals.
    A few weeks ago, I saw a police chief in Sth Australia calling to increase drug penalties for personal Marijuana use! It doesn’t exactly give me faith in the justice system.

  10. a Duoist:
    The entire effort to control firearms is grounded in the psychic fears that accompany a belief that human beings are inherently evil, selfish, and prone to error. In short, gun control is one of the mantras of a deeply pessimistic psychology which sees ‘defanging’ and ‘declawing’ as the only viable method of controlling humanity’s basic predatory nature.

    No I don’t agree with this.

    I think the effort to control firearms, or any industry at all, through government power actually overlooks and ignores the very fact that humans make mistakes. Government consists of humans making laws and statutes, and of course, they are just as likely to get it wrong as we are.

    So government control is not based on the assumption that people are wrong or make mistakes or are dangerous.
    Indeed, sometimes people are, sometimes people are not.

    Government control is based on the assumption that government knows better than thou, and can run your life better than you could.

  11. I disagree with your disagreement Jono. If people weren’t considered greedy, selfish, evil and all the other things the Bible and most philosophies tell us, then why would people look towards government control in the first place? (I’m sure you have an answer, I’d like to hear it).

    It’s easy to see that government’s are not omnisicient and that they destroy human life. Easier than proving to a skeptic that humans are capapble of rational thought as the primary guide in their lives.

    As you point out, if people are born evil, then government’s can’t be trusted either. This is true, but I’m sure people have their own incorrect rationalisations for why they think government decisions out perform individual decisions on average. Also I think the perception of inevitability of evil in government (and everything) means people have low standards for government performance.

    But there’s also another issue at work here. I call it the phenomena of “authority addiction”. People are generally desperate for guidance and control from a higher power. God or state or in many cases both. Personally I think it’s largely because they lack a logical system of ethics but I’d also say there are many reasons for this phenomena such as tradition, wanting to belong to a group, a lack of focus on reason in our culture (and therefore lack of confidence in personal decision making), a lack of genuine self esteem etc.

  12. I call it the phenomena of “authority addiction”. People are generally desperate for guidance and control from a higher power. God or state or in many cases both.

    It’s true Tim. A lot of people are scared of responsibility and prefer to be led.

    I watched a South Park episode last night in which St Peter was found to be really a rabbit and his direct descendant (and therefore the current Pope) a white rabbit called Snowball.

    Once all the attempts by the Vatican to kill Snowball had failed, in the final scene a group of distraught people said, “But if the Pope is a rabbit, how will we know what to do and how to live our lives?” There was a long pause with no answer.

    (The authors are libertarians, naturally.)

  13. Its not that people are considered greedy and selfish. Its more what David L said – its that they don’t want to assume responsibility for their own actions, they think we can “socialise” everybody to share the same fate and be protected from the consequences of their mistakes.

    Maybe we look to government solutions because of selfishness, but not for the reason you suggest. It takes a degree of selfishness, arrogance or greed to impose your will on another person and violate their property rights and freedoms.

    So if there was no selfishness or greed or envy, people would be happy to leave each other alone.

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  17. Well, three months in and society hasn’t crumbled. Guess the SA Government and Police got it right, didn’t they. Libertarians always give me a good laugh… Go suck some blood on the mean streets and then tell me why I should see criminal filth armed better than me…

  18. kick all gun owners out of Australia. Australia is peaceful because of strict gun laws,don,t let the psychopaths of the usa influence us with there pro gun stance,they are the worlds main lunatics, the laws in Aus should be even stricter against guns, and the few loose nuts from north qld should be ignored as they are minorities who are in opposite views to the vast majority of australians .

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