The possession and use of weapons, particularly firearms, is heavily regulated. Following the Port Arthur massacre, a national campaign was implemented to increase controls and put public safety before the privilege of gun ownership.
Some types of conduct related to firearms and weapons can result in criminal convictions.
Unlawful possession of a firearm
The unauthorised possession or use of a prohibited firearm or pistol is a serious criminal offence. There are two substantive offences under the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW):
- Section 7A of the Firearms Act prohibits a person from possessing or using a firearm unless authorised by a licence or permit.
- Section 7(1) of the Firearms Act prohibits a person from possessing or using a pistol or prohibited firearm unless authorised by a licence or permit.
Even if you have a licence permit, if you use the firearm or pistol for anything other than the purpose authorised by the permit, you will still be guilty of an offence.
What is the difference between a firearm, prohibited firearm and pistol?
Firearm is broadly defined by the legislation to mean any gun or weapon capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive. This includes a blank firearm or an air gun.
Prohibited firearm means any firearm listed under schedule 1 of the Firearms Act. This list includes a machine gun, self-loading rifle, or pump-action shotgun.
Pistol means a firearm that is reasonably capable of being raised and fired by one hand, and does not exceed any dimension prescribed by the regulations.
Most charges for possession or use of unauthorised firearms remain in the Local Court where the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.
If the matter is heard in the District Court, the maximum penalty depends on the type of gun used. The maximum penalty for possession/use of an unauthorised “firearm” is five years imprisonment, whilst the maximum penalty relating to a “prohibited firearm” or “pistol” (a more serious type of gun) is 14 years imprisonment.
People convicted of these offences in the District Court often receive a prison sentence.
Possession or use of weapons
Separate legislation regulates the use and possession of other dangerous items. Under Section 7(1) of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW) it is a criminal offence to possess or use a prohibited weapon unless authorised by a permit.
Even if you have a permit for the weapon, if you use it for anything other than the purpose authorised by the permit, then you may still be guilty of an offence.
What is a prohibited weapon?
A prohibited weapon is anything listed under schedule 1 of the Weapons Prohibition Act. This list includes knives, explosives, missiles, spear guns, crossbows, batons, slingshots and tasers. The courts recognise that some of these weapons are more dangerous than others, and a less dangerous weapon may result in a lower penalty.
Most charges for possession or use of prohibited weapons remain in the Local Court where the maximum penalty is two years imprisonment.
If the matter is heard in the District Court, however, the maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment. People convicted of this offence in the District Court often receive a prison sentence.