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Rush on SA gun shops "similar to toilet paper": dealers

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UPDATED: Gun and ammunition sales have spiked in South Australia ahead of an impending ban, retailers say, after other states this week imposed tough restrictions on firearms retailers in response to COVID-19 panic buying.

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The National Cabinet decided earlier this week to introduce a temporary ban on gun purchases for sporting and recreational purposes in response to some states recording a doubling of attempts to access firearms and ammunition in the past week.

The ban excludes farmers, rural landholders, professional vermin control staff and armed guards as their jobs are considered essential and require them to have access to firearms.

The decision was prompted by fears that an increased amount of weapons on the street would be dangerous if accessed by criminals.

Some state governments, including Victoria, have also cited increased tension in the community and the expected spike in domestic violence incidents as reasons to implement tougher firearms restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the national directive, it is up to individual states and territories to implement the necessary orders to close firearms stores.

(It’s been) a large growth in ammunition sales – very similar to what’s happened with the toilet paper

Already Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia have imposed bans on the sale of firearms, with SA Police commissioner and emergency state coordinator Grant Stevens now also moving to close firearms dealerships across South Australia.

It comes as Adelaide gun shops report a boost in firearms and ammunition sales, despite the Federal Government ordering the closure of all firearms clubs and commercial ranges last week in accordance with social distancing.

According to SA Police statistics, in March this year, 2069 permits to acquire a firearm were submitted, compared to 1575 in March last year.

SA Police described the change as a “slight increase”.

There were also increases in the number of attempts to access firearms in January and February this year compared to the same months last year.

Gunforce Firearms Shop business development manager Stephen Kelly told InDaily his regular customers had been buying ammunition “more than perhaps they normally would” to ensure they had enough supply to “see them through” the coronavirus-prompted store closures.

He said the recent increase in sales at his Hindmarsh store had slowly dropped as customers responded early to the imminent ban.  

“The customers that bought their slightly larger amounts, they’ve done their purchasing now,” he said.

“I think people were just making sure they had enough to go hunting or whatever their recreational shooting was… they just made sure they bought enough to ensure they could do it.

“The major reason they did it was not so much the closure of the gun stores, it was the fact that prices are going up as we speak by about 20 per cent on all things that come from overseas, which is 98 per cent of products that we sell.

“At the moment, there is no panic buying or rush to purchase ammunitions – it’s gone back to normal – so I can’t see the reason for it (the store closures).”  

Kelly said the imminent closure of gun stores would be a “major inconvenience to a lot of people”.

“Why would you stop people from accessing or going into a gun store, but leave all bottle shops open or hairdressers open, or beauty salons open?,” he said. 

“You close all the rifle ranges and other gun clubs, but you let golf clubs stay open.  

“I don’t think it’s fair and equitable.”  

Fisher Firearms owner Greg Sparrow said his Norwood store had also experienced “a big growth” in gun and ammunitions sales.  

“(It’s been) a large growth in ammunition sales – very similar to what’s happened with the toilet paper,” he said.

Opposition human services spokesperson and Sammy D Foundation founder Nat Cook said it was “more than reasonable” to close firearms stores in South Australia in line with other states.

“From a community wellbeing point of view I don’t see the point at the moment or the need for people to be able to access firearms,” she said.  

“Anything we can do to stop violence at this point is definitely worthwhile.”

An SA Police spokesperson told InDaily on Friday evening that emergency management state coordinator Grant Stevens was yet to make any direction to close or restrict the sale of firearms or ammunition. 

“SAPOL can advise that we have robust and well-established processes and strict oversight for the acquisition of any firearm in this state, in accordance with the Firearms Act and the National Firearms Agreement,” the spokesperson said.

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