Inside the oldest continuous gun store in Australia

Gary Huntington, owner the R. F. Scott & Co gun shop in Ballarat. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

Gary Huntington, owner the R. F. Scott & Co gun shop in Ballarat. PICTURE: LACHLAN BENCE

R. F. SCOTT & Co gun shop owner Gary Huntington has been around firearms all his life and he believes he hasn't seen them handled as safely as they are now.

His shop, the oldest continuous gun store in Australia, sells hunting rifles and trap shotguns, as well as accessories including gun safes.

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Handguns aren't stocked at his shop because they attract the "wrong kind of people", although he can get them in for local clubs if they are needed.

A licensed dealer, Mr Huntington has an extensive set of regulations he has to abide by before being able to sell someone a gun.

If someone wants a gun, he has to make sure they hold the correct license and meet the right "genuine reason" for that category of firearm.

"They check all your background and everything, you just don't get a gun license just like that. It's not like years ago, you'd just go and buy a gun," he said.

"I'm all for the rules and regulations, you want to have people checked out"

"I'm all for the rules and regulations, you want to have people checked out."

The shop can be randomly audited to ensure everything is above board. In his shop is a police sign warning customers of people trying to steal guns.

"Police audits are going on all the time. Any undesirables, they're taking the licenses off them. Really the shooting community is no threat to anybody."

Mr Huntington said all walks of life enjoyed shooting, including lawyers, doctors and teachers.

As well as target shooting, Mr Huntington said many people needed guns on their properties to eradicate pests.

"They can’t keep 'em down. Without the shooting, I don't know where they'd be. The farmers would start poisoning then. If they drop baits, everything dies," he said.

"That's the last thing you want. If they ban shooting tomorrow it would cause so much drama out there."

Recreational shooting on the rise

INTEREST in guns is on the rise according to local gun clubs which are benefiting from in an increase in the number of people taking up shooting as a sport.

According to police statistics, "sport/target shooting" has been selected nearly 1500 times in Ballarat as a reason for holding a gun license.

Ballarat Field and Game committee member Aaron Edmondson said more people were becoming interested in taking up the sport.

The club has more than 700 members, with at least 20 new members signing up every year. Mr Edmondson said there were also many women and junior members.

"We do a lot more come-and-try days and safety days out there. It's definitely increasing year by year for sure," he said.

Mr Edmondson said the process for licensing was "pretty strict", with the financial cost of the sport also a deterrent for people who were not serious.

Ballarat Pistol Club secretary Rod Parsons said his club was generating a fair bit of interest, with visitors coming by weekly to give the sport a try.

"Some just have a look and we don't see them again, but we have had a number of new members join recently," Mr Parsons said.

When asked about the club's safety procedures, he said licensed gun owners were extremely safe with their firearms.

He said the process for being able to own a firearm was difficult "and rightly so".

Each year, the club hands over information on all its members on the amount of shoots they take part in to ensure they maintain license requirements.

"It's regulated by legislation and by Victoria Police. It's to weed out the ones that aren't fair dinkum," he said.

"You just can't join the club say tomorrow and buy a handgun ... there's a waiting period. We have to undergo all sorts of police checks."

Mr Parsons said the amount of data available to police on the owners of firearms made them the least likely to commit a crime.

FULL COVERAGE:

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How many guns are registered in your postcode?

Half the state's handguns registered in Collingwood

"You would absolutely be stupid to do anything illegal,” he said.

“You go through all the hassles of getting a firearm, you don't want to lose it for any reason."

tom.cowie@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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