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Friday, August 24, 2012

AUSTRAILIA - Fit-and-proper test sees bikies lose guns

VICTORIAN police yesterday seized more than 100 registered firearms from members of outlaw motorcycle clubs across the state, declaring that bikies were not fit and proper people to hold licences. Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana conceded the move could drive bikie gun crime underground but said police believed outlaw bikies should not have access to legal or illegal firearms.
"We make no apology for coming down hard on these particular groups, they do describe themselves as 'one percenters', which means that they like to operate outside the normal conventions of society," he said.
Mr Fontana said the Victorian chapters of one motorcycle club had access to 38 registered firearms. "This is simply intolerable and we don't think the community would think this is proper."
Victoria's Echo Taskforce conducted inspections at more than 30 properties across the state after police intelligence identified licence holders as confirmed members of outlaw clubs. The owners of the guns have the right to dispute the decision with the Victorian Firearms Appeal Committee.
Mr Fontana said officers were threatened during the inspections, which also yielded illegal items including a loaded pen pistol concealed in the barrel of a licensed firearm, and some starter's pistols.
The Victorian move comes as police in NSW prepare to prevent bikies from owning or working in tattoo parlours under new legislation also using "a fit and proper person" test.
A spokesman for the United Motorcycle Council of Australia, Russell "Camel" Wattie, said the police action perpetuated a myth that all members of outlaw clubs were involved in organised crime. "Outlaw motorcycle clubs are yet to be declared criminal organisations in Victoria or any other state, so there is no basis on which to judge whether members are fit and proper persons solely on their membership of a club."
A barrister for some of the outlaw clubs, Wayne Baffsky, said seizing legal firearms was discriminatory. "Where will this end? People of the Muslim faith have been involved in numerous acts of terrorism. Can police also now declare they are not fit and proper persons to hold a firearms licence or participate in various forms of employment where this test is applied?"
Yesterday's raids were part of a crackdown on outlaw motorcycle clubs including enforcing breaches of liquor licensing regulations and unpaid sheriff's warrants.
"We are looking at our whole strategy of how we deal with criminal syndicates," Mr Fontana said.
He said the seizures were a warning that all aspects of bikie criminality would be addressed. "We're not saying that they (the registered firearms) are necessarily used in crime, there's a potential that they are. We often have incidents that have occurred at private residences or in some of the clubs where firearms have been used. These may be illegal weapons but they could also be legal weapons."