“I almost died when I saw it,” was Rod Murray’s reaction to a giant billboard promoting hunting, which has gone up in South Fremantle.
The billboard at the corner of South Terrace and Little Lefroy Lane, “electrician by day, hunter by choice” features a young man, “John”, brandishing a high-powered rifle,with an insert portraying him in his day job as an electrician.
The Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia makes no apologies for erecting the advertisement—the only one in WA—in the heart of hippy-green South Freo.
The SSAA is locked in a battle with the Greens, which wants semi-automatic handguns banned. SSAA publicist Rachael Andrews says the location was recommended by WA chapter president Ron Bryant, who works on the Fremantle docks. Mr Bryant did not return calls before deadline.
Ms Andrews says the poster aims to show that hunters are people we come across every day, in all walks of life.
“To show that it is not a fringe part of Australian life, but it’s everywhere.”
She acknowledges some will be upset, particularly parents, but notes movie posters depicting gun-toting heroes are more dangerous—and a concern to the association. To make the point, she notes the most recent James Bond poster showed the 007 character taking aim at an unseen adversary.
“We are talking about firearms in a safe environment, a supervised environment—that is not the same as the glorifying of firearms in movies where it’s being aimed at people.”
Mr Murray, a former South Fremantle precinct convenor, believes the billboard contravenes advertising standards and wants it taken down.
“Are they trying to be like the NRA in America? That’s all we need—the Republican lunatic mob moving in.”
He is passionately opposed to guns, his aunt having been murdered in Broome by his uncle using a hunting rifle. Mr Murray says the murder tore the family apart.
Ms Andrews says city people require education about hunting and its importance to country folk. She recently attended a Red Card for Red Fox hunt in Wandering in the wheatbelt, where farmers open up their properties to hunters seeking foxes and cats, and says she’s “never been anywhere where there’s been so many hunters in one spot”.
She dismisses the Greens’ concerns about semi-automatic handguns, saying they are rigidly controlled and it can take up to two years to get a licence. Magazines are restricted to holding 10 bullets.
But local Greens MP Lynn MacLaren isn’t convinced. While she hadn’t seen the billboard and didn’t want to tread on the association’s right to free speech, she says people expressing concern is a healthy reaction.
“With the billboards it would be a concern if they were to promote a gun culture,” she says. “In terms of hunting in the wetlands, I think the wetlands are under pressure and I’d be looking at ways to protect them and create more rather than killing what’s there,” she told the Herald.
by STEVE GRANT