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Proposed crackdown on gun laws

TOUGH new mandatory minimum sentences for gun crimes should not affect professional shooters or licensed gun holders in rural areas.

But Premier Campbell Newman said the proposed crackdown on gun laws - including a mandatory minimum five years jail for illegal firearm traffickers - and a new gun amnesty were designed to deter and punish people involved in illegal firearm activity.

He said the crackdown should make people feel safer as the government reacted to increased bikie violence in Queensland's south-east, especially after an innocent bystander was shot during a bikie-related shooting at a Gold Coast shopping centre on the weekend.

"We've seen a romantic notion develop around motorcycle gang ... just free spirits enjoying life on the road," he said.

"The sad facts are that motorcycle gangs are involved in criminal activities, particularly with things that hurt innocent members of the community.

"These gangs are about money, drugs, weapons. This government will be over the coming weeks attacking those issues.

"They're involved in a whole lot of front activities as well, which appear on the surface to be legit businesses that are not, they are there to launder money, to cover up the illegal illicit proceeds of crime."

Mr Newman said his police minister and attorney-general were preparing amendments which would mean offenders convicted of trafficking illegal firearms would get minimum five years jail, suppliers would get three years minimum and people convicted of possessing an illegal firearm in a public place would get one year in custody.

He said the offences were unlikely to affect first-time offenders with the mandatory sentences likely to activate with previous criminal convictions.

But Queensland lawyer Bill Potts, from Potts Lawyers, said the proposed amendments took away the justice of individual circumstances, both mitigating and aggravating.

He said Mr Newman was right when he last year spoke about juries being reluctant to convict people when there was a mandatory prison term, noting people smuggling as a "significant" concern.

Mr Potts said the former government's sentencing advisory council had concluded after considering many arguments that mandatory minimum sentences should not be brought into Queensland.

He said the purpose of the sentencing was presumably to deter like-minded people from committing the offences but he doubted it would work, noting the people being targeted did not believe they were going to get caught.

Mr Potts said he mandatory sentencing did not take circumstances into account, using the example of a 17-year-old being handed a weapon from a licensed person as they walked from a hunting trip to a car.

"Apart from sporting shooters, security and police, there might not be any real reason why people should have these sorts of arms but having said that is the person who's taking their husband or father's WW2 gun to the police station for the purpose of amnesty going to be jailed for 12 months?" he said.

"There might be people with guns as keepsakes, dad's heirloom, with no intention to use them.

"It is the role of government to take a longer term, considered and more nuanced approach to law and order issues.

"While I fully understand the obvious real public concerns, I would caution them to not react too quickly and to give greater consideration to their actions.

"What I fear will occur will be perhaps a future back flip either by the same or future governments as injustices start to occur."

Mr Newman said the finer details of the amnesty were still be nutted out but he doubted people would be charged for handing guns in, only pursued if ballistics proved they had been involved in a crime.

Australian Customs and Border Protection figures provided to APN Newsdesk show firearm, firearm parts, magazine or accessory detections in Australia increased from 225 in the 2006-07 financial year to 977 in the last financial year.

The biggest year for detections was in 2009-10 when Australian Customs discovered almost 2000 firearms, firearm parts, magazines or accessories.

Topics:  campbell newman, gun laws, queensland


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