Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Private Gun Ownership in Australia

This post is in response to a question asked by Mrs Fuzz in comments on a previous post as to who can own fire arms in Australia.

It is true that since 1997 gun ownership in Australia has been increasingly restricted in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre where 34 people died by gun-fire.

However, private (legal) gun ownership is still possible if you’re prepared to jump through lots of hoops. Illegal gun ownership is possible if you have the money to spend.

Firearms licensing in Australia is a State responsibility but since 1997 gun laws in Australia are supposed to be uniform across all States. This was achieved by the Federal government threatening to withhold road and health funding from States that did not implement the new laws that the Prime Minister wanted to see. However, there are still State-by-State variations, so this post is written from a Western Australian point of view. In most cases, licenses from any one State are NOT recognised in other States.

NOTE: Full-automatic firearms have been banned from civilian possession in WA since 1934, and civilian ownership of ALL handguns has been heavily controlled since the 1950’s. Currently, licensing and registration of ALL firearms is MANDATORY, and the laws are written to define air-rifles, pellet-guns, paint-ball markers, flare guns, nail guns etc as firearms. Additionally, restrictions apply to sling-shots, long bows, and cross bows. Purchase and possession of ammunition (and components of ammunition) is restricted to the calibres of firearms specified on your firearms license.

HANDGUNS
Magazine capacity
* Magazines must not be capable of holding more than 10 rounds

Barrel Length
* Barrel length must be equal to or greater than 100mm (not including cylinder) for revolvers, equal to or greater than 120mm (including chamber) for all others

Calibre
* Must be .45” or less bullet diameter if shooting IHMSA or Cowboy Action, .38” or less for any other shooting sport (Corrected 13/11/09 from Must be .45” or less bullet diameter if shooting IHMSA or Cowboy Action, .38” or less for any other shooting sport. Thanks MadMick)

Minimum age for ownership
* 21

Acceptable Uses
* Competition shooting only. (Gun can only be transported between home and “Approved Club Activity” or gunsmith or police station).
* Self-defence specifically excluded as “sufficient reason” to own.
* Some (very few) exemptions for farm use on case-by-case basis.

Application Requirements
* Must be an active and financial member of a recognised sporting shooting club AND recognised shooting association for 6 months before applying for a licence (or for the handgun to be added to an existing firearms licence that does not include handguns).
* Must have written support from the club AND association.
* Can only licence one rim fire or centre fire handgun after 6 months of membership.
* Can only licence one additional handgun in the subsequent 6 months.
* Approval of all applications is at the discretion of the police force, although there is some scope for appeal against arbitrary rejections.
* Must REMAIN an active, financial member of club and association to retain license.

Storage Requirements
* Must be stored in an “approved” safe.
* Ammunition must be stored separately, either in an locked box within the same safe or in another “approved” safe.
* Safe(s) subject to police inspection.
* Magazines must be “securely” stored separately from the ammunition and firearms and must be stored empty.

Licence Requirements
* Must compete in a recognised competition at least 6 times a year for your primary handgun category.
* For any other handguns licensed for a different type of competition you must compete in a recognised competition at least 4 times a year.
* NO provision for carrying the firearm on your person at ANY time except on shooting range.
* NO provision for possession outside the home unless en-route to competition, police station, or gunsmith, or en-route to home from same. Requirement to take shortest reasonable route.

LONG ARMS
Magazine capacity
* Magazines must not be capable of holding more than 10 rounds for rifles, and 5 rounds for shotguns

Barrel length
* Barrel length must be equal to or greater than 510mm

Action type
* Rifles: Break, Bolt, Lever, and Pump actions only (no Semi-automatics, or Full-automatics)
* Shotguns: Break, Bolt, and Lever actions only (no Pump-action, Semi-automatics, or Full-automatics)
* Some exemptions on Pump-action shotguns for competition use only

Minimum age for ownership
* 18

Acceptable Uses
Either
* “Approved Club Activities” (i.e. competition)
OR
* Vermin control on approved properties

Application Requirements
* For Approved Club Activities:
- Must be an active and financial member of a sporting shooting club AND shooting association for 6 months before applying for a licence (or for the long arm to be added to your existing licence that does not contain “Approved Club Activities” firearms).
- Must complete a training course (content requirements currently unspecified)
- Must receive written club and association support of license application

* For Vermin Control:
- Must have a letter from a property owner specifying that you have permission to shoot on their property. Property size and location must be deemed by police as acceptable for the type and calibre of the firearm specified. Number of letters issued by property owner limited.

Storage Requirements
* Must be stored in an “approved” safe.
* Ammunition must be stored separately, either in a locked box within the same safe or in another “approved” safe.
* Magazines must be “securely” stored separately from the ammunition and firearms and stored empty.

Licence Requirements
* For Approved Club Activities:
- Must compete in a recognised competition at least 6 times a year for primary category.
- Any other long arms licensed for a different type of competition must be used in recognised competition at least 4 times a year.
- NO provision for possession outside the home except under same restrictions as handguns.

* For Vermin Control:
- NO provision for possession outside the home unless en-route to approved shooting location (range, rural property specified in property letter, etc).
- Moves are afoot to require property letters to be resubmitted every five years.

Additional Notes
* When you apply for your first firearms licence, the following applies:
1. You need to make an appointment at your local police station to see the “Firearms Officer”. Available times are restricted and usually limited to four hours on each of two or three days of the week. No weekend appointments. (Only a small number of police stations are open 7 days a week, fewer are open 24 hours per day.
2. At this appointment you must make your application (several forms and affidavits required) and successfully complete a multiple choice questionnaire (must get the first three questions correct and no more than three wrong of the remainder). You then have a “cooling off” period for 28 days where nothing is done with your application.
3. At the conclusion of the 28 days you MUST advise the local police station that you wish to proceed with your application and then (if you’re lucky) it’s forwarded to the Police Firearms Branch for processing (background check etc).
4. Once approved and returned to your local police station (which has been known to take 16 weeks), you will be advised (usually by phone) and must again make an appointment.
5. At this appointment you receive a “Temporary Permit” that authorises you to collect the firearm (without ammunition) SOLELY for the purpose of transporting it to the police station for verification of the firearm details (such as make, model, action type, magazine capacity, and serial number). You must also make ANOTHER appointment to do so. The Temporary Permit is valid for a very short time (usually one or two days).
6. At this (final?) appointment, you must pay the “New Firearms License Issuing Fee” (currently $156) and the “Firearms License Noting Fee” (currently $28), and have your paper firearms license approved, issued, and endorsed with the details of the firearm. You will also receive (and be required to sign for) a letter advising you of the conditions applicable to the licensing and storage of the firearm.

Subsequent, additional firearms require:
* You need to make an appointment at your local police station to see the “Firearms Officer”. Available times are restricted and usually limited to four hours on each of two or three days of the week.
1. If the application is for an “Approved Club Activities” firearm, your application is forwarded to the Police Firearms Branch for processing (background check etc). Other application types may be processed locally or at the regional office.
2. Once approved by regional office or Firearms Branch (if required) and returned to your local police station (which may take up to 16 weeks), you will be advised (usually by phone) and must again make an appointment.
3. At this appointment you receive a “Temporary Permit” that authorises you to collect the firearm (without ammunition) SOLELY for the purpose of transporting it to the police station for verification of the firearm details (such as make, model, action type, magazine capacity, and serial number). You must also make ANOTHER appointment to do so.
4. At this (final?) appointment, you must pay the “Firearms License Noting Fee” (currently $28), and have your paper firearms license endorsed with the details of the firearm. You will also receive (and be required to sign for) another letter advising you of the conditions applicable to the licensing and storage of the firearm.

(Note: Thanks to Sendarius for his input into this post)

11 comments:

Ronzo said...

Thankful I live in the United States

Sean D Sorrentino said...

so basically this means, you can't have a gun. There are fewer restrictions on the ownership of true machine guns in most US States than this. Also, does the law mean that you specifically allow the Police to wander in the "check" your gun storage situation? Did Australia miss that part of English Common Law that we translate into

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

cause i'm sure that it is based on William Pitt's

"The poorest man may in his cottage,
bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown.
It may be frail, its roof may shake;
the wind may blow through it;
the storm may enter; the rain may enter;
but the King of England may not enter;
all his force dares not cross the threshold
of the ruined tenement."

You know that we allow immigration, right?

Joat said...

I'm sitting at my computer with a handgun in it's holster at my side, with a 14 round magazine in it one in the chamber, and a extra 16 round magazine in my back pocket. When I go to bed it will go into an electronic safe near my bed, in the morning it will go back on my belt for the drive to work. All of what I just typed is legal in Minnesota and none of it is legal anywhere in Australia. Is it at least still legal to use a bat on a home invader? Or has Australia gone as far as England and baned all self defense?

Julie said...

Thanks for stopping by guys (and thanks to Tam and Uncle for directing traffic this way).

Ronzo there are definitely benefits in living in the USA :)

Sean No, you can have guns – even multiple (I've got a friend whose arsenal would rival Tams) BUT you've got to be willing to jump through lots of hoops!

The police can't just wander in and check willy nilly. They “should” make an appointment first, and if they don't and just turn up on your doorstep you can tell them that it is not convenient and to come back at another time.

And as for emigrating – I have contemplated it :)

Joat You're right, even the electronic safe probably doesn't comply with the “approved safe” criteria :).

Self defense is allowed here – but AFAIK it's on an “equal force” basis. So if someone comes at you with a bat using a knife to defend yourself would be a problem – using a bat would be “okay” as long as there's a valid reason for you having the bat to hand, other than self defense. (Don't quote me on this though, as I'm not 100% sure of the latest legal situation on self defense).

mrs. fuzz said...

Thanks so much for answering my questions! This was so interesting to read and I know my husband will find this interesting as well. I guess my only other question is how long did it take you to go through this process, and I wasn't if I was understanding this correctly, but is there a restriction on how many guns and weapons you can own? From what I read it seemed like you can only own 2? Also, even with the said restrictions, do you have problems with gun control/violence like we do here in the states?

Joat said...

Julie, I'm sure the "safe" wouldn't be good enough, it's a cheap one, but it keeps my 4 year old from having access while I sleep. It is good to have some perspective when I get angry about stupid gun laws here there places where it is much worse.

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Cool blog as for me. I'd like to read a bit more concerning this matter. Thanx for posting that material.
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Julie said...

Thanks for stopping by Joan. Check out the "Firearms Licencing" category for more posts on this topic.

Alex said...

@julie's comment regarding self defence/equal force - that is correct. equal force is permitted, as long as the attacker doesn't surrender

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Agreed on the US comment. Glad to live there!

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Le Loup said...

What really bugs me is that no organisation in Australia appears to be backing Australian gun owners. I believe some firearms control is needed, but the problem is that the government is totally ignorant regarding firearms, as are the local police. Fair legislation I will back, but mindless legislation is totally pointless. It just get's the parties more votes, but does nothing to stop crime.
Do you know that an antique flintlock muzzle-loading gun/pistol does not require a license, registration or a permit to purchase, which is good & right. But a replica copy of an antique flintlock muzzle-loading gun/pistol does require a license, registration & a permit to purchase. Now where is the common sense in that? There is none. So 18th century living historians like myself are restricted from owning these flintlock guns unless we are very wealthy. Even then the law says we are not allowed to use them!!!
If we want to use a muzzle-loading flintlock pistol we have to join a pistol club & we can only use that flintlock at the pistol range!!!
Oh wouldn't it be great if our government actually worked for the people instead of themselves.
Regards, Keith.