Meeting with WAPOL Superintendent

WAPOLToday Perth GBG met with Western Australia Police Superintendent Mark Gilbert, as well as Inspector Dale Bell, down at the WA Police Force Licensing Enforcement Division.

All in all, a productive meeting that gave us some information that we were otherwise lacking, even if the overall tone of it was the proliferation of bullshittery that Papalia has already spread far and wide.

The following is taken from my notes on the meeting (HEAVILY paraphrased) laid out with a header, or leading question or statement, ensuing reactions at the time and my thoughts/opinions on the matter.  Hit “Show More” button to read each section.

Handshakes, now let’s get into it

  • PGBG: [Meeting opens with our assertion that our goal is an obvious one: To get our sport back.  We then thanked both gentlemen for their time and for meeting with us and clarified that our intentions on the day were to gather more information surrounding the issue of the gel blaster ban in WA.]
  • COPS: [Repeat nearly verbatim the basic information already given to the press about safety of officers, belief that someone will be shot by police, high number of incidents and call-outs.]

THOUGHTS: We went in prepared for the “toeing the party line” approach and we fully expected this.  This meeting was our first real chance to get someone spewing the same bullshit face-to-face so that we could pick apart their arguments in real time.  The fact that the opened with the Same Tired Shit gave us the opportunity we needed to call all that into question.


1600 gel blaster incidents since 2017, 147 gel blaster-related call-outs this year?

  • COPS: [Quotes numbers] So you can see this is a serious issue.
  • PGBG: Sure, we’re well-aware of the numbers.  One of the main reasons we’re here today is to hear directly from you about where you gathered such data.
  • COPS: Well… from incident logs.
  • PGBG: So what’s the standard method that we can query this data source so as to fact-check and verify?
  • COPS: You can’t.  We get them from a nationwide informational source at Home Affairs and it’s internal intelligence.  [Top Cop adds]  AND our “dispatch systems”.
  • PGBG: So when changing the law for WA, the minister has publicly quoted statistics for the entire country?
  • COPS: Home Affairs provides “intelligence” for the National Firearms Agreement.
  • PGBG: But these numbers are national?  Not just WA?
  • COPS: Yes.
  • PGBG: A Freedom of Information report, couple of them, have been run and nothing has come up.  Can you explain that?
  • COPS: Well, there’s any number of explanations for why a search wouldn’t give results and we can’t comment on what you’re searching for.
  • PGBG: Well we’ll come back later on that and ask your advice on where to seek such information then.

THOUGHTS: Verified that the numbers thrown around are for the ENTIRE COUNTRY, not just Western Australia.  Data sources are also conveniently not publicly-available and the response to the Freedom of Information searches showing “no results” is dismissed as “bad search”.

Home Affairs is given as a main data source for statistics, yet the police aren’t allowed to say what those statistics are, where they come from or how they are gathered.


If appearances matter, what about this?

Meeting with WAPOL Superintendent

  • PGBG: [Puts toy gun on table] So we purchased this on the way here.  It was $6 from Rave Discounts and you can see that all I need is small screwdriver and I can remove that orange tip.  Looks pretty real to us!  I don’t imagine there’s any argument that I could take that into a pharmacy, just like the guy in Applecross, and cause the same kind of incident, yeah?  If you’re going to start banning toy guns for looking real and to prevent somebody from being shot accidentally, why not start banning these?
  • COPS: We’ve taken advice on the matter and made our decision based on such.  Gel blasters have high incident numbers and we have said they’re illegal, and they can be converted into workable firearms.
  • PGBG: Okay, what firearm?  How?
  • COPS: We’re not at liberty to say.
  • PGBG: But where is the data on that and why can’t you say which firearm?
  • COPS: It comes from Home Affairs and is ‘internal intelligence.’
  • PGBG: So you’ve gotten ‘intelligence’ that gel blasters can be turned into ‘working firearms’ but you won’t say from where or how this can happen?
  • COPS: Correct.
  • PGBG: What if we told you that’s quantifiably and provably wrong?
  • COPS: Well we can go back-and-forth on this all day, but we’re not changing our stance and you’re not changing yours, so at the risk of going in circles we’ll be completely blunt and ‘in your face’ so to speak: We wanted to ban gel blasters so we did.  We had our reasons, made our decision and we’re not going back on that.
  • PGBG: Believe it or not, we’ve got nothing but respect for the adamant way you’ve taken your stance.  If you wavered on these things based on meeting us, we wouldn’t respect that.  We also have the utmost of respect for the fact that you’ve been charged with a task and you’re doing it to the best of your ability.  That’s never been in question.  We didn’t come here to change your minds.
  • COPS: That’s right.  YOU have your passionate and unchanging stance, so do we.
  • PGBG: Exactly.  We respect that.  But, respectfully, you are wrong.  You’ve gotten provably false information that’s formed the basis of your decision.
  • COPS: We’ve followed the ‘intelligence’ from Home Affairs and the Law Makers have gone forward with what they believed to be the right thing.  At the end of the day, we’re at the same mercy of the ‘law of the land’ as you are.  Again, you’re petitioning the wrong people here.
  • PGBG: Fair enough, but we knew that going in.  I’ll reiterate that we’re not here “petitioning” you so much as we are fact-checking and evidence-gathering.  We didn’t come here thinking that we’d change your minds so much as we wanted to know how it was your minds got here in the first place.  We’ll look to clarify things with both the MPs and Home Affairs.
  • COPS: Now, what you have to understand about Home Affairs is that they don’t make the laws, they provide information to the Ministers of Police who then form the National Firearms Agreement.  You can’t just go to them and convince them.
  • PGBG: Well their information is wrong, mate.  Why wouldn’t we seek to elucidate and educate them on where they’ve gotten it so wrong?
  • COPS: Well you’ll have to take that to the politicians then.
  • PGBG: Oh, we HAVE and we WILL continue to do so… [shows signed petition] and we’ll submit our Parliamentary Petition in due course.  We’re here because the only information we’ve been given is a couple of press conferences and press statements, copy+pasted into email templates, that you’ve reiterated as well for us, and we wanted to know more than that.  To hear it from Papalia, he was under pressure to respond to your calls to ban gel blasters.
  • COPS: Ah… you’ve got the cart before the horse there, mate.  [Top Cop nods]

THOUGHTS: Verified that the claim that a gel blaster can be “converted to working firearm” is ambiguous and no further fact given.  Even if they meant it can be converted to an Airsoft marker, the “facts” that they’ve been given are intentionally unclear and fact-checking is intentionally unavailable.

Also verified that despite Papalia’s claims, he’s pushed this issue, the police have just supported it.


This is for ‘public safety’ yet the public wasn’t considered.

  • PGBG: So gel blasters have incident numbers and appearance issues, and you decided in all your infinite wisdom that a blanket ban was the best way forward despite the impact it would have on the community?  All you had to do was Google “gel blasters perth” and you would have seen the law-abiding community of THOUSANDS that this would effect.
  • COPS: Well we met with one of your… groups, or somebody and we told them we were banning them, and we understand that’s bad for your “business” but we’re doing it because public safety is our primary concern and we have to look after the public.
  • PGBG: Let’s make one thing very clear about our reasons for being here, the business aspect is minor to our representation of the community, and your blanket ban that’s affected thousands has had a greater impact on the public than the gel blaster incidents you’ve cited.  You’ve stated your case with regards to numbers and the safety of your officers and the potential negative outcomes but you’re ignore a Greater Context here, and that’s the ACTUAL COMMUNITY you’re seeking to protect.  The business is all but destroyed, yes, but this ban has had effects like the increased calls to suicide hotlines from the very Veterans that Papalia is meant to protect, and when he smirks and callously says to them “find a new hobby” he’s put some of them in ED for their PTSD and the community is dealing with increased nooses around necks now.  We’ve already lost one of our members immediately following the news of this ban [NOTE: Not a veteran but we’re not allowed to provide more information than that out of respect for the family of the deceased] and we clearly don’t want any more.
  • COPS: Our condolences and sympathies to the family of the deceased.  But again, you’re petitioning the wrong people.  You need to take these matters up with the politicians.

THOUGHTS: When faced with the REAL impact of these decisions they did what we expected all along and Passed The Buck.  Mental health problems, Veterans mental health, the good of our community… these things simply DO NOT matter in the grand scheme for WAPOL.  They focus on less crime and leave worrying about the community’s mental health and well-being to others.

They repeatedly claimed that the incidents involving gel blasters made them a “pressing matter” that they felt they had to deal with swiftly and harshly.


What about when your own department labelled them ‘toys’?

  • PGBG: So gel blasters can be turned into a firearm…
  • COPS: They’ve always been a firearm.
  • PGBG: So what about when YOUR Ballistics department labelled them as ‘Toy gun’?  When we were raided, they took blasters away, then returned them clearly marked as ‘toys’.
  • COPS: Well, Ballistics is only one part of the Firearms Licensing.
  • PGBG: But they refuse to classify as a ‘firearm’ so how can you claim they are?
  • COPS: Well that’s why we wanted this change to the Weapons Act, to remove the ambiguity of all that.
  • PGBG: But you’ve stated that the data you used to back up your claims is ambiguous and from a source in Home Affairs that you can’t cite.
  • COPS: We wanted to ban them, so we were happy to use whatever we could to help us do that.
  • PGBG: So the fact that we can quantifiably prove these ‘facts’ as false…
  • COPS: Is a matter for you and the politicians.  We got what we wanted.
  • PGBG: So are you going after Laser Tag guns?  They look like M4s…
  • COPS: But they don’t shoot projectiles.
  • PGBG: Little water beads count as ‘projectiles’ then?
  • COPS: Absolutely.
  • PGBG: Nerf shoots ‘projectiles’.
  • COPS: They don’t look like assault rifles.
  • PGBG: Some of them most certainly do.
  • COPS: Well, when I get call-outs that Nerf is being used in robberies and causing fear and panic, I’ll push to have them banned too!
  • PGBG: Knives are certainly more dangerous than gel blasters, why not ban them?  We’ve spoken to actual TRG members that have stated that they’d rather someone have a gel blaster because the only person that can actually be hurt in that situation is the person holding it.  Criminals that are going to hold up stores and do the wrong thing are ALWAYS going to do the wrong thing and it isn’t going to matter what they’ve got in their hands ultimately.
  • COPS: Well I can’t speak to your TRG member there, but it’s not practical to ban knives and while it’s true that someone can use any type of prohibited weapon or illegal firearm to commit a crime, we’re going to do whatever we can to limit the availability of those items.  Gel blasters have full auto capability and appearance of assault rifles and are being used to commit crimes.
  • PGBG: So you’ve chosen gel blasters to ban based on their appearance AND functionality, yet things that satisfy both of those criteria are fine?
  • COPS: I’ll say it again: You’re petitioning the wrong people here.  For my part, I’ll just say this as carefully as I can: We’re looking VERY closely at The Firearms Act.
  • PGBG: So you’re looking to make changes to The Firearms Act as well?
  • COPS: Absolutely.  Gentlemen, you’re fighting an uphill battle, as you live in a state that’s got possibly the toughest gun control laws in the entire world.  And us cops, well we LIKE it that way, and we’ll keep doing what we can to make them tougher.

THOUGHTS: Doesn’t matter that they are toys or classfied as ‘toys’ by the WA Ballistics Department, the Top Cops have always wanted them banned because they think it means less crime.  And regardless of the Bigger Picture with regards to the impact it has on the community, that’s all they care about.  They don’t care about due process, thousands of law-abiding people being punished unfairly or the mental health issues of thousands of the ‘public’ that they claim to protect.  They want less crime.  And Firearms, of any shape and size, are all on the chopping block.


So what would you recommend we do to get our sport back?

  • PGBG: So, as mentioned, we knew coming in that we’re f*cked, and that’s never been in question.  What would YOU recommend we do to get our sport back?
  • COPS: Well, get yourselves organised and communicate to all your members to NOT take blasters out in public…
  • PGBG: Um, we’ve done that.  The message of safety and responsible use has been on our website for about 2 years now.  Seriously, just Google “gel blasters perth” and you’ll see us right up there and all that information has been on there this whole time.
  • COPS: Well, you’ll want to think about contacting maybe your local MP…
  • PGBG: Ha!  Yeah, ah, um… the website again, we’ve got a form on there where people can send emails to their local MP, all pre-written and everything.
  • COPS: Ah well.  We wish you luck in your endeavours and remember that we’re looking at the Firearms act VERY closely…
  • PGBG: Ha!  Noted.  Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today, gentlemen.

THOUGHTS: Cops want to ban everything they can, and this was just the first step.  Which we knew, of course.


In Summary

We went in knowing that this meeting wouldn’t change a thing as far as WAPOL’s stance goes and it hasn’t.  But we were able to successfully confirm some aspects of this ban.

Claim: 147 gel blaster-related callouts, and 1600 gel blaster-related incidents since 2017.
Confirmed: Bullshit.  Statistics are both from the ENTIRE COUNTRY, not just our state.  Both are sourced from “Home Affairs” and are unconfirmed with the ability to do so restricted to the public.

[EDIT: Email received from Dale Bell this morning – 15/07/21 – claims statistics actually for WA.  So question is now: Was the mistake in telling us that the statistics were “national” or was the mistake accidentally telling us the truth?]

Claim: Gel blasters can be converted to a working firearm.
Confirmed: Bullshit. Converting a gel blaster to a “working firearm” is a claim based around WAPOL’s consideration that gel blasters are firearms.  Airsoft markers are also considered “firearms”, which would be the likeliest “firearm” that a gel blaster could be converted to.

Claim: Gel blasters can’t be registered because you can’t put serial numbers on them.
Confirmed: Bullshit.  Proved false by South Australia’s recent regulatory changes.  At meeting today neither attendee would confirm or deny this.

Claim: Gel blasters were banned based on their appearance and similarities to actual assault rifles and the high number of related incidents.
Confirmed: Bullshit.  They banned gel blasters because they could.  They used inflated and non-verifiable statistics and are ignoring other items of similar appearance… for now.  But they aim to change that too in the future…


WAPOL is also planning on targeting more rights of firearms owners and the gel blaster ban is the first of many planned restrictions.

Next Step: We’re meeting with our lawyers next week and will hopefully update with more information then.

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