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.

 

Penalties

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.

 

Penalties

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.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Firearms Prohibition Order?

A Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) is made by the Commissioner of Police to prevent a person from acquiring, possessing or using firearms, firearms parts or ammunition. FPOs are governed by the Firearms Act 1996.

If you are the subject of an FPO, police have broad sweeping powers to search you or your premises, work or vehicle without warrant. Serious penalties apply for breaching an FPO including:

  • 14 years maximum imprisonment for acquiring, using or possessing a pistol or prohibited firearm.
  • 5 years maximum imprisonment for acquiring, using or possessing firearms parts or ammunition.

It is also an offence to supply someone on an FPO with a firearm or firearm part.

Where will the matter be heard?

The possession/use of unauthorised firearms, prohibited firearms, pistols and/or prohibited weapons will ordinarily be dealt with in the Local Court. In rare circumstances, these charges may be heard in the District Court, but this would usually only occur if a defendant is also charged with further more serious offences that must be dealt with by the District Court.

What are the likely penalties for a first offence?

Penalties for a first offence typically include a fine, Conditional Release Order, or Community Correction Order. You can learn more about these penalties here.

It is also possible for no conviction to be recorded under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.

What happens to my firearm if someone takes out an AVO against me?

Persons who are the subject of AVOs (Apprehended Violence Orders) will be forced to surrender lawfully held weapons and their firearms licence for a period of 10 years.

What happens to my firearm if I am convicted of an offence?

A person charged with an offence involving a weapon or firearm may have their licence automatically revoked even before the offence is proven in court.

Can you help me get my NSW firearms licence back?

Under the Firearms Act, a licence can be suspended, refused or revoked for a variety of reasons. These include a person being subject to a good behaviour bond or considered not fit and proper to possess firearms without danger to the public safety or peace. In most cases, such a decision can be reviewed either internally by the Firearms Registry, or externally before the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). We can assist with both reviews.

What is a firearms amnesty?

Governments occasionally hold amnesties to give people the opportunity to dispose of firearms, weapons and ammunition without the risk of prosecution. The reasoning is that firearms and weapons in the wrong hands can pose a significant threat to the safety of the wider community.

How can we help?

We are experienced in successfully defending firearms and weapons charges.

Book a free consultation or call us on 1300 668 484 for 24/7 legal advice.