By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Two ‘spud guns’ seized from an Officer premises have been found not to be firearms in a landmark case at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court.
Amanda Lewis faced charges of possessing unregistered Category E longarms and possessing firearms whilst a prohibited person after police found the two PVC pipe guns on New Years’ Eve, 2019.
In a sentence on 21 October, magistrate Gerard Bryant mused over a brief history of firearms, referencing military general Hannibal, fast bowler Jeff Thomson and comedy film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
He cited “organic matter” being used as wartime weapons – such as human remains and livestock being used in slingshots in medieval times.
Hannibal had catapulted venomous snakes in clay jars at ships during a war against King Eumenes of Pergamon in 184BC, for example.
In Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the knights of the round table were attacked by hurled livestock, Mr Bryant noted.
Small children or dwarfs shot from circus cannons was a “big drawcard” in more recent times. But that form of “politically incorrect entertainment has now ceased”.
“And the use of humans or livestock as projectiles has been made redundant,” Mr Bryant stated.
The seized ‘spud gun’ was capable of being loaded with a potato or lemon, then fired by igniting hairspray with a sparkplug in the device’s combustion chamber.
The contraption was capable of tearing through a cardboard target 30 metres away, according to police.
A police ballistics expert said spuds could be fired at 130-140 metres a second – or 440 kilometres an hour. Much less than a bullet at 330 metres a second.
Mr Bryant said category E longarms, including machine guns, rifles, bazookas and rocket-propelled grenades, were “inherently lethal”.
He said it was doubtful that homemade PVC devices were envisaged in the same category.
At worst, the weaponised spud could inflict bruising, broken bones and possible artery damage.
Unlike bullets, the “humble potato or lemon” were not subject to any regulation under the Firearms Act.
“Fruit and vegetables are not inherently lethal and are not manufactured, but instead grown by organic means for human consumption.”
Mr Bryant concluded the ‘spud guns’ – also known as ‘veggie cannons’, ‘fruit cannons’ and ‘lemon bazookas’ – were not firearms under the Act.
He dismissed the charges, but stated his decision “should not be interpreted as a green light for the citizens of Victoria to arm themselves with these types of devices for any purpose”.
“At a minimum, such devices could be rightly categorised as ‘dangerous articles’ under the Control of Weapons Act 1990.”