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About HEALTH & SAFETY – issues and The Acts
1. Firing across boundaries.
Many of you will be aware that hunting regularly takes place on boundaries and in public areas not signposted or mapped and not within state game reserves.
Shotgun pellets often strike houses, the surrounding garden area and roofs of houses with one story about this happening while there were tradesmen working on the roof.
During the hunting season residents have reported that it has been very unsafe to undertake property maintenance or walk along driveways.
Shotgun pellets have been frequently seen to fall into dams, having been fired across boundaries.
There is a reason firing across private boundaries is a breach of the Firearms Act 1996, Part 7,Sect 131 (1).
2. Safety & distances.
The Firearms Safety Code, a booklet approved by the Firearms Consultative Committee and Victoria Police, states on page 11, that the range for a shotgun is 250 metres to 750 metres.
The National Firearms Code (Attorney General’s Department) Page 5 gives the effective danger range of a shotgun #6 shot as 250 meters.
The range of shotfall may be doubled with tail winds in excess of 50 km per hour. (Western Australian Police, Firearms Ranges, Standards for Approval vs 3/2008, page 3-4) . This is a common occurrence on regional wetlands/waterways.
The Firearms Safety Code also sets out a number of safety guidelines which sadly we too often see flouted,
a. Check your firing zone. Be aware of what is between you and your target, and in the area beyond the target,
b. The spread of shot may endanger something other than the target,
c. Never shoot when stock, human activity, or buildings are in the area,
d. It is unsafe to shoot at targets on a skyline. Remember that many hunting areas have rural and urban developments close by,
e. When shooting near thick bush or scrub you may not be able to see your whole firing zone,
f. A charge of shot is very wide, particularly at longer ranges,
g. Your firing zone changes rapidly when you are following a moving target. This applies particularly when shooting with shotguns’
h. Be aware that others may be in the area,
i. Never fire at hard surfaces or water.
3. Safety and shotgun danger range.
Western Australian Police, Firearms Ranges, Standards for Approval 2008, Chapter 3 defines danger areas as;
‘those areas of land or water, together with a specified air space, within which danger to life, limb or property may be expected to occur..” and “the range danger area consists of the following:
· Firing Point
· Impact Area, consisting of
§ Target area
§ Dispersion / human error angle
§ Ricochet area
We know that shooters will fire directly into the water, to kill a downed bird or clear their barrels or even from what appears plain boredom.
As per the above reference, going to the table titled Ammunition Planning Factors 3-10, for no. 6 shot the dispersion angle is 80 mls/5 degrees and the ricochet angle is 320 mls / 18 degrees. Max range at low elevation for no.6 shot is given as 280 metres.
Locals and tourists frequent areas where unmonitored shooting is allowed.
Shooting risks injuring landowners or visitors through dispersion or ricochet of shot.
Obviously if a property owner or member of the public is within 50 metres of a hunter then that person is at risk of significant injury or death from an accidental or misdirected discharge.
Especially given the number of public areas across Victoria where unmonitored hunting is allowed, a member of the public could be within a metre of a hunter holding a loaded shotgun. An accidental discharge, striking a person from the mid thigh up, would most likely be fatal.
Deliberate or accidental firing across private or public boundaries places landowners and members of the public at risk of eye injury even at considerable distance from the firing point.
Pentrating eye injuries have been reported at 90 metres. (British Journal of Opthalmology , 1987, 71, 449-453 A Five Year Survey of Ocular Shotgun Injuries in Ireland ). The patient injured at 90 metres had a double perforation and bilateral retinal detatchments.
Opthamoloigists say one could still suffer a concussive injury to the eye at 250 metres. This sort of injury could result in bleeding into what is known as the anterior chamber of the eye.
NSW Police Force, Range Users Guide, April 2013 Version 9, Annex D, Outdoor shotgun ranges…., D.1 General, states
“However, even falling spent shot can cause injury, particularly to unprotected eyes, and a danger area is required.
Shotguns are usually fired at moving targets and so the precise direction of fire can vary over a wide arc. The spent shot can also be carried by the wind. The shotfall area should take both of these factors into account in addition to the theoretical range, “
All the above is notwithstanding the added dangers of shooters being under the influence of alcohol or drugs which we saw evidence of recently.
Still no safety risk assessments have been carried out as to the dangers of hunting to the public, let alone residents living in close proximity.
We yet again appeal to the Victorian Government to keep Victorians safe and ban the unnecessary activity of duck shooting.
Sadly, protected species such as swans and pelicans are too often collateral damage in Victoria's duck shooting season.
Photo Kim Wormald