Lithgow City Council has thrown its support behind the Lithgow Small Arms Museum (LSAFM) after it found out that 70 per cent of the museums collection could be destroyed due to new regulations.
The new regulation for museums that went through in November 2017 states that all pistols, self-loading longarms, sub-machine guns or machine guns are to be rendered permanently inoperable.
The situation was brought to council's attention at its March meeting as a matter of great urgency by Cr Stephen Lesslie.
"The move to render the weapons inoperable will sap the energy out of the museum and its volunteers, the authenticity of the museum would be destroyed," he said.
"If this matter is not rescinded then Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum will close."
Lithgow City mayor Cr Ray Thompson said the council had written a letter of support for the Small Arms Factory Museum to the newly appointed NSW Minister of Police.
According to Cr Thompson the letter went through Minister Paul Toole, who passed it along.
"We received a letter back from Paul Toole to say our letter has been forwarded to David Elliot," he said.
"This new regulation is not going to make a difference to gun safety, the museum has relics in there and guns that have been there over a long period of time that are only for show, it's ridiculous to think about putting lead in the barrels.
"It's a museum, the whole thing is stupid."
Bathurst MP Paul Toole said the museum was a great attraction to Lithgow and was run by committed, hard-working volunteers.
"We just want to get this matter resolved as quickly as possible for them," he said.
Cr Steve Ring said the Small Arms Factory was a key asset in our tourism industry.
"I would say their collection there is not just of state significance but of national or international significance and we have to work with this group, in order to develop and protect it," he said.
Minister for Police David Elliott said he became aware of the concerns of the Lithgow Small Arms Factory Museum late last week.
"I will be meeting with their representatives to discuss any possible reform in the near future," he said.
"Clause 59 of the Firearms Regulation 2017 ensures museums are subject to stringent safety requirements for firearms held in their collection and on public display to mitigate the risk of theft and safeguard community safety."
LSAFM custodian Donna White said it was sad to think LSAFM may have to give its essential collection away to protect it from government regulation.
The LSAFM met with the previous NSW Police Minister in early February to discuss changing the regulation back to 'temporarily inoperable'.
"We were told then that the Minister would write to each affected museum seeking comment on the draft amendment," Ms White said. At that meeting a draft amendment was tabled by the minister.
There are two key provisions of the draft Amendment:
- All prohibited firearms are to be 'permanently inoperable'
- The Commissioner has the right to issue exemptions on a firearm by firearm basis
"Despite the proposal for exemptions, this is on a firearm by firearm basis, there is no blanket permit exemption where the nature of Museums is fully understood by those making the laws," she said.
LSAFM's Kerry Guerin said that removing the wording of 'permanently inoperable' and reinstating 'temporarily inoperable' would negate the need for having Commissioner exemption provisions.
"Allow Museums the right to have a permit with a blanket exemption on the basis that required minimum security and safety systems be in place and regularly audited," he said.
"As we all know, the regulatory regime for Museums per the 1996 Act have been satisfactory and practicable.
"Firearms dealers and retailers are in the same position, yet they are not targeted like museums.
"What must be remembered is that firearms in museums haven't been used for years. As any firearms user knows, this presents a personal risk to those who steal a gun, source a missing part, and fire it.
"The danger is greatly increased when missing components are replaced by any available part - especially if the firearm is self-loading, semi, or full automatic."
Ms White said the donors who had passed their collection and legacies onto the museum for safe keeping and display will in many cases, be for the scrap heap.
"Our decision-makers must give more thought to what they are destroying," she said.
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