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John Edwards murders: Greens call for gun legal loophole to be closed | Australia news


The Greens have called for the closure of a “legal loophole” which allowed the man who shot dead his two children in Sydney last week to gain access to two guns.

On Wednesday Guardian Australia reported that the New South Wales firearms registry had given John Edwards a permit that allowed him to gain membership to a gun club in western Sydney.

Known as a commissioner’s permit, it meant Edwards was able to begin a gun training program at the St Marys Indoor Shooting Centre and eventually buy the two “powerful” handguns he used to murder his son and daughter.

Edwards was given the permit despite the registry having warned other clubs not to let him near firearms only months before. The 67-year-old had been knocked back by at least two gun clubs after he ticked “yes” on a form asking if he had previously been “prohibited” or “suspended” from holding a firearms licence.

But Guardian Australia understands Edwards was given the permit anyway because a previous apprehended violence order had passed the 10-year period considered by the registry.

The Guardian also understands that the firearms registry – which industry insiders describe as being “chronically over-stretched and under-resourced” – was unlikely to have known Edwards also had an ongoing custody dispute with his estranged wife because legal authorities such as courts and police do not share computer systems.

Under the Firearms Act, commissioner’s permits can be granted “to authorise the possession or use of firearms in such circumstances as the [police] commissioner considers appropriate”.

Sources have said the permits are used on occasions “where there the law has gaps in it”.

Senior NSW government figures expressed shock that Edwards had been given a commissioner’s permit; one described them as having been “as rare as hen’s teeth”.

But Greens MP David Shoebridge said the permits were a “legal loophole” that sat outside the national firearms agreement and “needs to be shut”.

“Having a gun is a privilege, not a right, and the law needs to clearly say if you don’t meet the test for a gun you don’t get one, with no exceptions,” he said.

He called on the NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, to “publicly state why this permit was issued and what, if any, third party representations were made in support of it”.

“Until an urgent and public safety review has been done no further special commissioner’s permits should be issued,” he said.

“We need tough gun laws that protect women and children, not weak ones with loopholes that only empower men.”

The horrific shooting has led to calls for partners and formers partners to have a say when someone applies for a firearm licence, and for greater communication between agencies such as police and the family court.

Shoebridge said firearm laws should include notifications and veto rights when gun permits or licences are sought “at a minimum”.

“Gun violence prevention orders would allow family members who may be at risk to have a court order that a former partner’s guns be removed,” he said.

On Thursday Fairfax Media reported that Edwards’s son Jack, 15, may have died while trying to protect his younger sister from their father.

Early ballistics reports show Jack may have been killed while “shielding” his 13-year-old sister, Jennifer, the homicide squad commander, Scott Cook, said.

“That’s a heroic act,” he said in Sydney on Thursday.

Cook added the tests were inconclusive pending the final results of crime scene tests.

“I have no doubt the coroner will seek to run an inquest in that matter,” he said.



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