Western Australia’s Police Minister Paul Papalia says he’s ploughing ahead with changes to the state’s gun laws in the wake of a fatal shooting, but the process won’t be sped up.
The Wheatbelt town of Kellerberrin, about 200km east of Perth, was plunged into lockdown for a number of hours on Thursday after 25-year-old Lachlan Bowles shot dead co-worker Terry Czernowski.
Bowles was found that afternoon in a paddock about 20km north of the town, where nearly three hours of police negotiations broke down and the shooter took his own life.
Mr Papalia addressed the media early on Friday afternoon, using the opportunity to spruik the Labor Cook government’s proposed reforms to gun laws.
“We’re in the midst of rewriting the Firearms Act for the first time in 50 years,” Mr Papalia said.
“We’re on time, the work is being done, a draft will be completed soon, and will be released to the public before it’s brought into the parliament.”
The updated laws are expected to toughen storage obligations and implement mandatory and recurring mental health checks for gun owners.
Mr Papalia echoed sentiments shared by former Premier Mark McGowan, who said the laws, once in effect, would be “the toughest in Australia.”
But he insists the bill won’t be rushed.
“This has been methodical, this has been widely consulted, continues to be consulted,” Mr Papalia said.
“There will be a public draft released for public comment, including from the Opposition, and I look forward to their support.”
The gun law reforms have again been dragged into the spotlight, with questions around the Firearms Act raised in May after a 15-year-old boy allegedly fired three rounds from a hunting rifle at his Two Rocks high school.
Speaking on the Kellerberrin shooting itself, Mr Papalia revealed police were concerned Bowles would open fire on any aircraft they sent to the scene.
“It was a very confronting situation … police had to consider threats to their aircraft, and their personnel,” Mr Papalia said.
Mr Papalia said it would have been especially confronting for specialist police officers.
“They’re trained for these incidents but there’s nothing like fronting up to someone who wants to shoot you,” he said.
The Minister remained tight-lipped on the specifics of the incident, maintaining it’s still under investigation.
That includes Bowles’ motivation, reports he was wearing a swastika armband and waved a Nazi flag, and the nature of his relationship with Mr Czernowski.
It’s understood Bowles was licensed to use a number of firearms, although it’s unclear if the high-powered rifle and handgun he used on Thursday were registered to him.