SHOOTING is one of the safest sports around.  That’s because of the way we regulate our ranges.

It doesn’t help when a politician decides to put that at risk – for a media opportunity.

WHEN THE WA MEDIA gathered at the Pinjar range last year to hear the WA Government’s decision to rewrite the state’s gun laws, it wouldn’t have known that the event it was attending was not only illegal, but highly dangerous.

Caught out

The media event involved a display of several firearms and the live-firing demonstration of a 50 calibre ‘sniper rifle’.

It was attended by State Premier Mark McGowan, then Chief Commissioner, Chris Dawson, and the guy who organised the event with WAPol, Police Minister, Paul Papalia.

Let’s be clear: a 50 calibre gun is a very powerful long range gun.  Range templates exist to ensure the safety of those there. Pinjar was not approved for 50 calibre. 

While there was an interal approval given by the police for the use of the gun by themselves on the day, this does not change the fact the range was not designed for 50 cal.

The picture to the right shows you how significant the fallout zone for a 50 cal is, relative to the range template.

As you will see, the fallout zone takes in some access roads.

Unfortunately for Papalia, his reckless regard for range approvals and view that gun safety is optional, came undone in recent days thanks to some documents that came our way.

The red area shows the fallout zone for the 50 cal.
The green zone is the ranges template zone.


The NSC has obtained documents under Freedom of Information that related to the event that made our jaws drop.

The documents made it clear that:

  • The Pinjar range was not authorised to use the 50 calibre – and the internal WAPol briefing makes it clear that the event should not have gone ahead;
  • The RAAF had to close the Pearse Airbase for two days to airspace up to 18,000 feet – one for a practice shoot, and one for the event;
  • The police purchased the gun without a tender – for it to now be warehoused as a ‘reference’ gun.

… and there was the matter of the Premier handling a 50 cal round without holding the appropriate licence or exemption, contrary to s19 of the WA Firearms Act 1973.

NSC's media coverage

As a result of this discovery, our Vice President, Peter Zabrdac, contacted the Daily Telegraph who published the story. Click here to see it.

The story was then picked up by the broader WA media, including the following (click on the links to see the stories)

Still from Channel 9 coverage of media stunt

It’s time for Papalia to resign

Questions in parliament

You can imagine that by now, the Premier’s office will not be pleased with Papalia’s office.

Not only was this an embarrassing episode for the Premier who attended the event, but where gun safety became optional.

However there was more to come. 

We also organised for friendly MPs to ask questions in the WA upper house in Parliament.

We’ll cover these in another story to follow shortly.

10 thoughts on “RECKLESS: NSC exposes McGowan and Papalia’s dangerous media gun stunt

  1. Hugh Jwang says:

    So, not only did they NOT go out to tender for the purchase of the firearm (as well as using it illegally at a range not suited for it (and conveniently granted ‘approval’ to use… )) There are some serious questions that need to be asked:
    1. Who grants these ‘approvals’ and under what circumstances can they be approved?
    2. Why does the government choose to allow themselves to break laws that are used to govern everyone else?
    3. Who made the decision to go with a 50-cal and why?
    4. Who approved the purchase and the relaxation of purchasing rules?
    5. Have the details of the purchase price of that EXPENSIVE firearm been disclosed now that it is to become a shelf ornament?
    6. Do the officers in this department have a culture of flagrantly acting in contravention of law when it suits them?
    6a. Is this culture indicative of whole of government?
    7. Has the air base sent a bill for downtime to the WA government? How much was it?
    8. Where is the firearm now to be stored and will it be a secure location or some warehouse… in a box?
    9. Did any unlicensed person touch or handle the firearm at any time?
    10. Did any unlicensed person touch or handle live ammunition at any time?
    Of course, the media will ignore this as a legitimate exercise because a) government is never wrong, and b) government is never wrong when it’s their preferred socialist agenda at play.

  2. Brenton R Jones says:

    As a 50 cal target shooter Iam not happy with this article. It serves to raise unfounded fear about the gun and caliber and threaten my ligitement and legal hobby of long range target shooting. These range templates are just theoretical in nature and do not really represent and actual danger. I am able to hit anything in that 50 cal template with my 300 win mag, and conversely with proper aiming and a defection restricted shooting frame make it impossible to put a projectile into that extended area. So in all these types of articles lack the full truth probably to just point score against someone or some thing. I have been shooting 50 cal since 2003 and never had any problems or issues until now with this political grandstanding.

    • Neil Jenkins says:

      Hey Brenton. As a 50 cal shooter, you might also want to relay your concerns to your local state MP. Maybe they can relay your concerns in parliament? Ta Neil Jenkins

  3. Trevor Pollock says:

    what an exceptional set of facts & safety issues written by Hugh Jwang,that were broken/abused just for some media stunt for the socialist McGowan dictatorship.
    McGowan & the police minister have no idea when it comes to facts & is just pushing another fear campaign to the residents of WA.I don’t own or intend to own a .50 caliber rifle,the largest caliber I have is .308 Winchester used for deer.But if a shooter chooses to have a .50 caliber or other large caliber rifle for target shooter it should be the right of the licensed responsible shooter what caliber he wants to own.
    Long range target shooting is a very disciplined relaxing form of sport & for many people with a disability this is the only form of sport they choose to be involved in.
    WA needs to leave responsible shooters alone & get all thier facts right before pulling media stunts to fear the citizens of WA.
    Just like the McGowen government did during the Covid 19 (Flu) outbreak.

  4. chris says:

    Who were the “experts” and their qualifications, whos opinion was acted up on to have this illegal act ?

  5. Markus says:

    WA already has an approved public 50 cal range in the states north at Ella Valla Station, and WAPOL has licensed 50 cal rifles for its members. The Ella Valla Station has been been a subject of a Landline TV special and other media coverage discussing the range and the enablement of adventure tourism in the states north that has attracted people worldwide. Recent sale of the station with provisions to keep the club running is a thorn in WAPOL’s side. Continued losses by WA’s firearms branch in the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) to restrict the operation of the club and a pending SAT ruling have been speculated as the reason for the dangerous 50 cal demo and the rushed 50 cal ban ahead of the WA firearms Act reform tabled for 2024. I guess when the law doesn’t support your agenda you just change the law till it does. You cant make this stuff up.

  6. David William Spencer Sivyer says:

    Let me get this straight. The police want to outlaw a rifle that nobody currently owns or ,maybe even, wants to own. This level of reasoning falls on the extreme (crazy) end of the logic Bell Curve. What next? Ban cars with 8, 10 or 12 cylinders?
    I find it ironic that operation of electric scooters continues despite a number of recent deaths and injuries suffered by riders.
    Talk about an “arse-frontwards” approach to sound government!

  7. Jack says:

    All Government Policy “”Don’t do what we do ,,Do as we say “”
    All Government Policy “”Put Incompetent Fools in Position of Authority .

    • True blue says:

      ALP job for mates! No account of responsibility for proper vetting for ministers portfolios –
      Fake it till you make it mentality
      Stop lying to the general public, be honest and transparent do the right thing your lies will catch you out the Australian public are not stupid we see your true colours and we’re not impressed. Remember people vote and they will vote the next state and federal election enough said.

  8. Peter says:

    All this fuss from Politicians about high powered rifles that are grossly expensive, and are ridiculously expensive to use!

    Yet, no interest at all in night vision scopes that can be bought by anybody unrestricted straight over the counter, then fitted to any firearm of any calibre, and give clear vision of any living thing at 1000 mts on the darkest of nights, when you cannot even see your hand in front of your face..

    What do you think is more dangerous?

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