A last haven for guns that would have otherwise been scrapped by authorities, an Australian firearms museum is now confronted with the possibility they may have to mutilate their own collection. The Lithgow Small Arms Factory, which crafted Australian Lee-Enfields from 1912 into the 1950s when they switched to making inch-pattern semi-auto FAL rifles, is an icon in the country.
Some two decades ago, a non-profit group turned the facility into a museum to preserve both the factory and historic Australian firearms Staffed by volunteers, they take in unregistered guns during national firearm amnesty periods rather than have them torched by police. “We exist for the community and display a range of artifacts of historical, educational and community value,” the museum said
Now, Lithgow’s collection is the subject of a regulation passed in the Australian state of New South Wales to have museums that store arms make them “permanently inoperable.” Previously, Lithgow and others could just remove the firing pin to deactivate weapons, a temporary move that largely kept the gun intact, just not fireable. What the government wants now is a more drastic method.
“Permanent inoperability involves inserting a steel rod down the barrel of the firearm and welding the muzzle and chamber, welding the barrel to the receiver, removing the firing pin and welding the hole, removing all internal springs, welding internal components and welding the bolt, magazine, external hammer and trigger in a fixed position,” Lithgow said. “By doing this, the firearm will be reduced to a metal blob rather than a genuine firearm.”
The museum is petitioning the NSW government to allow them to leave the current operation as-is. The group argues an “unimaginable loss of history” would occur should the collection be ordered butchered. They estimate that as much as 70 percent of their current holdings would have to undergo the new procedure.
The public petition has 3,000 signatures as of Thursday.