It's not really a topic for polite conversation at dinner parties, however the fact remains that Australia has some of the best recreational hunting in the world.
Many rural and remote areas of our country are not only spectacular places to visit, they provide a 'blue ribbon' experience for keen shooters.
While the numbers of feral targets in rural areas are a boon for recreational hunters, it's a true problem for our environment. Our regional areas are thick with foxes, feral goats, pigs, wild dogs, rabbits, feral cats, water buffalo and even feral donkeys.
Some may see hunting as an evil blood sport, however the reality is it provides a valuable service to our environment. For example numbers of the introduced European Red Fox have started to match our national population. These animals are not 'cute little critters' but vicious hunters that prey on our native wildlife. Without the participation of recreational hunters, fox numbers would grow at an unprecedented rate.
One of the main reasons hunting is such a popular and well managed pastime in Australia is that our gun laws work.
There can be no doubt that the landmark gun reforms of Prime Minister John Howard in 1996, including the banning and buyback of certain types of firearms, were not only necessary, but have prevented thousands of potential gun related deaths since their implementation.
I remember when shopping for my first rifle in the early 90's, it was possible to buy a Chinese made 7.62mm SKS with either a 10 or 30 round banana magazine for only $99. These were rugged, massproduced, military, killing machines.
They were favoured by pig hunters who liked the ability to move up quickly on a large herd and pepper them with bullets. Not very accurate, but when you were able fire off a dozen bullets in 15 seconds it didn't really matter.
Disturbingly, these military weapons could legally be owned by recreational hunters like myself; weekend shooters who lived in the suburbs of Sydney or Melbourne or Brisbane and went bush a couple of times a year to hunt feral animals. By 1996 there were thousands of military grade semiautomatic assault rifles dotting the leafy suburbs of major cities.
Sadly and inevitably we saw them used against innocent people. The mass-murderers who perpetrated the Strathfield Plaza shooting in 1991 and Port Arthur in 1996 both used these types of weapons.
Rightly, the Howard Government banned military style weapons following the Port Arthur atrocity and limited ownership of semiautomatic weapons and pump action shotguns to holders of C class licences and above -- those deemed to have a genuine and immediate need.
This was mainly limited to primary producers for serious feral animal control.
As a result of the Howard Government reforms, Australia's gun laws strike a perfect balance of allowing recreational hunters and regular shooters the opportunity to pursue their hobby and help keep the numbers of feral animals down, while seriously restricting the ownership of semiautomatic firearms.
It is vital that we do not retreat an inch on these reforms.
The debate on firearm regulation has been reignited by the proposed importation of a new weapon - the Adler A110 20 lever action shotgun.
The Federal Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, has suspended the importation of the firearm pending a review.
Most lever action firearms have a faster reload rate than a bolt action rifle. The Adler shotgun boasts the ability to fire off eight shots in eight seconds. A SSG shell from a shotgun -- the shell mainly used for pigs -- releases approximately 8 ball bearings about 6-8mm in diameter. At close range the force and spread convert the discharge into a 'fist' that punches through the target.
The application of the Adler to pig shooting is obvious, for the same reason that made the old military SKS assault rifles attractive -- a high powered weapon that rapidly delivers a devastating payload to multiple targets.
For killing pigs, it's ideal. Unfortunately, in the hands of the wrong person, it's ideal for putting down multiple human targets in a short space of time.
To allow this weapon into the hands of recreational hunters like myself, with an A or B class licence, is risking putting the rapid fire death machines of the last century back into our suburbs.
Our gun laws are working. They don't need tightening. However we cannot risk a return to this type of firepower being readily available to the public. The Adler shotgun is a great tool for the rapid removal of feral pigs, but it belongs in the hands of those who really need it and who are qualified to use it.Suggest a correction