Huntfest and public health – time for a rational debate
In its Position Statement, the AMA has stated that: “[while it] acknowledges a legitimate role for firearms in agriculture, regulated sport, and for the military and police [it] supports a reduction in firearms in the community and [holds the view] that possession of firearms in the community represents a public health issue.”
The SAFE media release states, “Huntfest is designed to encourage gun ownership and use. It fosters the proliferation of firearms in the community and it takes place in Narooma every year on council land.”
In approving the use of council owned and controlled land to enable Huntfest to take place, council is clearly also facilitating Huntfest’s agenda. It certainly can’t be said that council shares the AMA’s support of a reduction in firearms in the community. On the contrary, by its approval of Huntfest, council supports an increase in firearms in the community. The logic is irrefutable.
And, significantly, the Public Health Act 2010 places responsibilities on local councils to promote public health outcomes. Our council, in words at least, accepts these responsibilities and states that “This Policy [on smoke free outdoor areas] recognises that Council has ... An obligation to promote public health outcomes where Council provides assets and services intended to be of benefit to children and other members of the community” (emphasis added)
But council provides the assets (land and building) that allow Huntfest, which in turn “fosters the proliferation of firearms in the community” which, according to the AMA, represents a public health issue.
So, council can’t have it both ways. What it has done in relation to Huntfest is at complete odds with its professed “obligation to promote public health outcomes” – if it were to accept the AMA’s view that “firearms in the community represents a public health issue”. Maybe council doesn’t and won’t accept the AMA’s position. The only way we can know is for the matter to be debated in the chamber and for council itself to produce a position statement – a policy – that addresses the views expressed by the AMA. The AMA has drawn a clear and direct relationship between firearms in the community and public health. Council must address this issue.
No longer can councillors rationally hold the view that – as far as the use of public land is concerned - the Huntfest event is like any other event. Councillor Pollock once said that the Huntfest application for the use of the land could just as well have been an application for a Teddy Bears’ Picnic. It’s just an event he said. That view has been shared by a majority of the previous councillors. They are wrong.
In light of the AMA’s views it is time for council to debate the issue. But can we expect staff to take the initiative to do this, by producing a report to council on this matter? I don’t wish to sound negative, but I think not. I look forward to seeing just who takes this on and to the debate itself.
In the end, the AMA’s position will either be accepted or rejected by council. But we need to know what council’s position is and the reasons for it.