By Shelby Brooks

FOLLOWING COVID-19 forced shutdowns of pistol clubs across the state, shooters are hoping Victoria Police will relax firearm participation requirements to avoid losing their pistol licences.

If someone owns one category of handgun, they have to have a minimum of ten attendances (counted as competition attendances) per annum, evenly spread across the year, to maintain the right to own that firearm, according to Outtrim and District Pistol Club president Stuart Olsen.

Outtrim and District Pistol Club was forced to shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“But if you’re like me and have four categories of handguns, then you have to have eighteen attendances per annum, evenly spread across the year,” Stuart said.

“If leniency is not applied, we will have to wait until our range is open again and go like crazy so we can comply, or we’ll forfeit the right to own our handguns.”

Secretary of Victorian Amateur Pistol Association (VAPA) Roger Wakelin said the association has requested Victoria Police apply leniency for all 3000 members across the state.

“When the state government imposed the restrictions on involvement in sports, it meant our clubs needed to close – and the members couldn’t use them to maintain their participation,” he said.

“If the members can’t access the club ranges for three months, for example, then we would like to see participation requirements reduced by 25 per cent.”

52 members of the Outtrim and District Pistol Club are in a tricky situation due to the forced closure of the club.

A Victoria Police spokesperson told the Sentinel-Times that the situation is being monitored.

“Victoria Police… are fully aware of the impact the coronavirus pandemic and associated social distancing requirements may have on clubs and licence holders,” they said.

“Victoria Police continues to assess the extent of any future impacts on handgun participation and will ensure the best endeavours of licensees are considered.

“If a modification of current participation requirements is deemed necessary, relevant parties will be notified accordingly.”

On April 15, New South Wales Police introduced new amendments to the state’s firearm registry regulations, to deal with COVID-19 lockdowns.

“The provisions only apply while a health order is in place that restricts or prevents a person from complying,” the NSW Police website reads.

“Due to the restrictions on movement and social distancing due to COVID-19 (coronavirus), some requirements relating to firearms and prohibited weapons licensing may be difficult for a person to meet.”