One of NSW's leading firearms manufacturers believes the state government's current category D firearms regulations are hurting small businesses, while leaving producers outgunned in the war on pests.
In late 2020, a ban was placed on most category D firearms, limiting NSW license holders to only seven eligible weapons, six of which have not been manufactured for several decades.
However, two companies still produce firearms in NSW, but they are unable to sell their category D firearms in their home state due to the regulations.
Small arms manufacturer Oceania Precision's managing director Jeff Bacon said the regulations were limiting job opportunities and economic growth for people in rural areas.
"What the pandemic has shown us is that there is a demand for sovereign manufacturing, self sufficiency across many industries within Australia," Mr Bacon said.
"Manufacturing firearms is quite technical, it's highly-skilled labour and it's important to have those skills within the country.
"Under current regulations, we can't sell the products we manufacture in NSW, which takes away the biggest market and as a result, takes away high-skilled jobs.
"If I was able to sell the products my company manufactures here locally, I could increase my staff, including two apprentices straight away, so in a way, these regulations are costing jobs."
Under NSW's gun laws, category D firearms include self-loading centre-fire rifles, self-loading rimfire rifles with a magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds, self-loading shotguns, pump-action shotguns and lever-action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds, as well as any firearm to which a category C licence applies.
"There is a clear economic impact to my manufacturing business as a result of how this regulation is written and interpreted," Mr Bacon said.
"Not only does that disadvantage my company, but it also disadvantages other manufacturers of these category of firearms in other states because no one can sell their products here."
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As well as having an impact on regional economies, Mr Bacon said the regulations were having a negative impact on primary producers, who were not able to access fit-for-purpose firearms to control pest animals.
"From a farming perspective, producers and contract licence shooters can not legally possess the firearms we are manufacturing locally and which are something specifically built for the task they need it for," he said.
"They're not on an even playing field for NSW farmers compared to farmers in Victoria or Queensland.
"What that essentially means is that when it comes to pest management, farmers in NSW are at a disadvantage, with one hand tied behind their back because they can't access the right tools, while farmers in the other two eastern states can fight with two hands."
Licensed contract shooter Donald Barwick, Tamworth, said the change in regulations had limited his ability to work. "I've got aerial contracts ready to go, but I can't do those jobs because I don't have the right equipment," Mr Barwick said.
"As a new contractor establishing a client base, this is extremely frustrating."
"The training, vetting and regulatory bar for ownership of this type of firearm is extremely high. The NSW Firearms Registry permits you to shoot this semi automatic rifle but not that semi automatic rifle, because it's 'of a kind' - what is the real difference here?" Mr Barwick said.
"I'm limited to what I can offer compared to contract shooters in other states, ultimately NSW farmers and the environment are the biggest losers out of this regulation change. The government needs to step in and fix this before feral pig and deer numbers get even worse."
A spokesperson for the NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole told The Land last week that "NSW Police would support a review of recent changes to the category D firearms regulations", a sentiment which was echoed by NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders.
"It's essential primary producers have the support they need in combating feral animals, which is why the NSW Government runs the country's largest and most effective pest management and baiting programs, and why I would also be in support of a review of category D firearms regulations," Mr Saunders said.