Museum firearms display in limbo

Parkside Cottage Museum volunteer Tony Taylor with the holster of the museum’s World War I German Luger pistol currently in safe storage off site. Photo: Kieren Tilly.

Narrandera’s valuable collection of historic firearms are in limbo awaiting changes to state legislation on deactivation.

The Parkside Cottage Museum is home to the collection of Dr Lethbridge and counts amongst its displays a dedicated exhibition of Narrandera’s history during armed conflict over the years.

Pride of place is a German Luger semi-automatic pistol owned by a wounded German officer in World War One as well as a German Maxim machine gun, amongst a number of other military firearms.

Museum volunteers are confident of a positive outcome pending the legislative changes involving the permanent deactivation of what are termed prohibited firearms.

Volunteer Tony Taylor fully supports the proposed legislation yet remains confident the weapons will take their rightful place in the collection following their disabling.

“There is a lot of negotiating going on between museums, NSW Police and politicians, and this may take some time to sort out,” Mr Taylor said. “The biggest problem would seem to be to be the complete permanent disablement of hand guns, our Luger is caught up in this. Our Maxim machine gun will also need to be permanently disabled for our permit application to proceed once the freeze on permit applications has been lifted.”

New state government legislation requires all fire-arms kept by museums and RSL’s as part of their historic displays, and deemed to be prohibited firearms, must be made inoperable, paid for by the institution concerned. Those organisations will then be required to apply for new permits for those firearms.

Museums have voiced their concern that complete deactivation of the prohibited historic firearms will not only result in the devaluation of the firearm collections in monetary and historical terms, believing that rendering them both inoperable and historically insignificant at the same time.

Given the cost associated with having deactivation carried out, Parkside Cottage Museum is not keen to outlay the money required without assurances a permit will be forthcoming.

Whilst there is no guarantee of that happening and no apparent timeline with regards to when any applications being processed Mr Taylor is far from disillusioned.

“Narrandera needs to know the museum, Narrandera Shire Council and NSW Police are all working together to get this situation sorted out so the display can be reinstated,” he said. “I cannot thank the officers at Narrandera Police Station and Narrandera Shire Council enough for their support and assistance during this period of uncertainty.”

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MLC Robert Borsak said rural and regional museums were having fire-arms confiscated or forced to render certain categories permanently inoperable and defaced due to a change in the Firearms Act.

“They are talking about defacing these firearms and piling on more bureaucratic red tape, only delaying the inevitable which is the removal of all of these fire-arms from this state,” Mr Borsak said. “As a result, museums and their communities, are suffering financially with less visitors and increasing costs to store the inoperable firearms, yet government owned collections and museums are exempt.

“What will the flow on effect of this is be on small towns where these museums are? Important historical items, that have been made in Australia and used by Australians, are being destroyed by this Government with no discussion, no consultation and of no community benefit.”

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