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Firing Range Safety
November 15, 2017
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:48): I rise today to speak about the Marksman firing range and their recent experience with SAPOL. To provide a bit of history on the matter, in 2008, Julia Morris purchased a shooting package at the Marksman and used the guns at the facility on herself to complete suicide. She had earlier been discharged from hospital as she had attempted suicide. In 2009, Raymond Jast completed suicide in a similar fashion at the Marksman facility.
A coronial inquiry into the deaths found that, although doctors reported over 800 individuals as being medically unfit to have a firearm, only 54 were banned. The inquiry recommended that the Marksman facility develop and install tethering devices that would ensure that the firearms could not be reversed.
In response to these recommendations, the Marksman developed tethering devices in 2012 and applied to the SAPOL firearms branch to vary their licence so that the tethering devices could be installed. I understand that the Firearms Branch needs to approve any changes on any active South Australian range. However, they could not get SAPOL to approve the tethering devices as Firearms Branch had begun proceedings to cancel Marksman's licence. This decision was appealed through the courts, which found in favour of the Marksman facility. However, SAPOL still would not inspect or approve the tethering devices.
Sadly, in 2015, Marksman had another suicide on its premises when Brenton Winton McConnal turned one of the firearms on himself. In the resulting coronial report from the inquest into Mr McConnal's death, the Coroner was scathing in his criticism of SAPOL and their handling of the matter. The Coroner found that Mr McConnal's death could have been prevented had SAPOL worked in conjunction with Marksman to approve the tethering devices. Instead, the Coroner found that SAPOL was committed to one course and one course only, namely to put Marksman out of business as a commercial firing range.
It is disappointing that this was the course of action that the Firearms Branch decided to take, and it is little wonder that there are some who question whether SAPOL has the best interests of the community at heart. Unfortunately, I have had other dealings with the Firearms Branch where their actions and behaviour have been questionable. I acknowledge that the Firearms Branch need some improvement, but I do not want to tarnish the reputation of all sworn officers of SAPOL, as I acknowledge that most do an excellent job under the current framework.