SAFETY FIRST: Sam, Angus and Dan Gale out learning about responsible firearm use.
SAFETY FIRST: Sam, Angus and Dan Gale out learning about responsible firearm use. Contributed

How I bought a Chinese 'man killer' in minutes

IT HAS often been said that "guns don't kill people - people kill people".

I've noticed that it's often people with guns who do the killing though.

Sometimes it's the other side of the world and sometimes it's closer to home, like the horrible events at Christchurch.

The Kiwis were swift to enact legislation to tighten up their gun laws, banning military-style, semi-automatic firearms. This was similar to the reaction to our own Port Arthur tragedy back in 1996.

I have no doubt the perpetrator of this awful crime chose to do it in New Zealand due to the availability of these firearms. Yes, he still needed a licence in New Zealand to own them, like our licensing system.

The big difference being that here you can't legally own those types of firearms for recreational hunting or range shooting like you were able to across the Tasman Sea.

Aussies can still legally have them here, but mostly for occupational reasons. They're hard to justify. Things were a hell of a lot different here in Australia 30 years ago.

I grew up in a house without firearms. As I grew older, I made friends with people who owned and used them. I found that I was a pretty good shot too, so I suppose that helped spur my interest as well.

I bought a .22 rifle at Kmart and a 500-round "brick" of ammo and regularly made trips to the rifle range at Belmont where I shot holes in lots of bits of paper or knocked over a sneakily placed can on the backstop if the range officer didn't catch you.

One day I decided I needed a bit more firepower (as you do), so I dropped in at my local gun shop and walked out less than five minutes later with a Chinese semi auto SKS rifle a "spam can" of ammo (640 rounds), bayonet and a 30-round magazine! All for the measly sum of $350 and with a quick flash of my (paper) driver's licence to prove I was an adult.

I chucked the purchases "securely" on the back seat of my car and off I went.

As a range gun, it was overkill and just drew the wrath of the range officers like flies at a barbecue. That's about all the shooting I could do in suburban Brisbane.

So, I quickly went back to my trusty .22 and sold the SKS to a bloke I played footy with.

This was all perfectly legal then. We didn't have gun safes, permits to acquire, licences and all that. "Flash the cash" and off you went.

On reflection, I'm glad some social-misfit homicidal-maniac type with 300 or 400 bucks didn't walk into the gun shop instead of me, because it would have been easy to load up the 30-round magazine straight out of the door and start blasting pedestrians and motorists up and down Old Cleveland Rd.

In fact, I'm surprised Port Arthur didn't happen earlier and more often. Just good luck I suppose? Or maybe blokes like me similarly armed might have all run out of houses and saved the day? I dunno.

People say you can buy those guns if you know the right (or wrong) people.

I for one am glad we changed. Those types of firearms were designed for one thing. Maiming and killing lots of people. Fast.

I'm still a firearm owner. I've still got a .22 and I collect the variants of the good old .303.

I use them to shoot feral animals eating my friends' crops, humanely putting down the occasional injured beast and I've even won a medal and a T-shirt over the 500-yard range at Risdon at the Anzac Day shoot with the trusty "three-O."

I try to pass what I have learned onto my kids. How to be safe. How to be an ethical one-shot hunter. How to respect firearms and be a responsible gun owner. And every time I think about that day I so easily bought that Chinese "man-killer" I thank god we've moved to a saner time.