Private gun ownership in NSW – What does the law say?

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In 1996, in Port Arthur Tasmania Australia, 35 people were massacred by a gunman. The day will not be forgotten as the country mourned the loss of those innocent people. And the hearts of the Australian community were heavy for the families of the victims.


The murderous act caused an outrage and the citizens of Australia screamed for changes to the gun control laws. Beginning with new legislation proposed by government officials, the National Firearms Act 1996 was created. This was the country’s first attempt at curbing the type of weapons available to the public, and increasing the scrutiny and waiting periods for those who wanted to purchase guns.


The Australian states and territories agreed to incorporate many or all of the following into their governing legislation;


  • A ban on a variety of self-loading rifles and rimfire rifles
  • Compensated buy back for all newly banned weapons, without penalty, for 12 months
  • Registration of all weapons
  • Licensing for all gun owners based upon a finding of genuine need for gun ownership
  • Five newly introduced categories of allowable firearms
  • Minimum age of 18 years
  • Finding of decent character
  • Mandatory accredited firearm use training
  • Introduction of a 28 day waiting period for every firearm purchased
  • Firearms dealers must be licensed
  • Sale of ammunition to licensed owners only
  • Limits on the amount of ammunition that can be purchased


While there has been significant backlash from gun enthusiast and firearm groups, a Rand study speculates that the changes implemented via the National Firearms Act 1996 has reduced or eliminated mass shootings in Australia. The report opines that prior to 1996 there were 13 mass shootings in Australia and subsequent thereto, none.


Yet, it is becoming apparent that some of the stricter gun laws are not being fully conformed with in the various states and territories of Australia. It is claimed that the waiting period is not being properly applied. Hence, while a gun purchaser might wait 28 days on his initial purchase approval, subsequent purchases are not being held to the same scrutiny.


In addition, there is concern over the number of firearms one individual citizen can own. It is being proposed that a review of the practices of each state and territory be conducted. There is a need for all states and territories to be in compliance with the agreed upon factors. And, it is important that the severity of maintaining the strict regulations be reiterated, as consistency across the country will help ensure the safety of all.


In addition, it is claimed that the reason given for the need for gun ownership, as required by the regulations, is allowed to be used multiple times for multiple purchases. There are those who believe that the reason presented for the purchase of a second, third or twenty-third firearm, cannot all be the same.


Lastly, the laws have become laxer in allowing children over the age of 12 to shoot with supervision. While this appears to be most prevalent on shooting ranges, the use of firearms by teenagers, even in a supervised setting, is garnering a great deal of attention.


Prime Minister John Howard was at the forefront of this issue at the genesis of his leadership tenure. It was himself and former prime minister Fischer who joined forces in the revamping of the firearm laws, subsequent to the 1996 massacre. And, while the both Prime Ministers supported the legislative changes, Prime Minister Howard has spoken quite openly about his lack of fear of being the target of gun violence. Mr. Howard has openly stated that he feels safe and believes he is safe, as he traverses the country and mingles with the people who elected him.


While the issue presents no easy answers, Australia is working toward continuing to make their states, territories and country, as a whole, a place of safe living and refuge. It is to the benefit of all citizens, adults, children and the elderly, to feel a sense of security from the violent act that shook the country in 1996.


In the event that you find yourself in need of assistance with this, or any other legal issue, please contact the law offices of Owen Hodge Lawyers. At Owen Hodge, we are always happy to assist clients in understanding the full ramifications of any and all of your legal needs. Please feel free to call us at your earliest convenience to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.


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