Australia is a nation of many laws. One of the more comprehensive aspects of regulation in Australia is weaponry. Specifically, we have uniform legislation that prevents the misuse of weapons and firearms.
In order to understand the legislative purpose and effect of the Weapons Act 1990 (Qld), it is necessary to travel back in time to the 1990s This Act was introduced pursuant to the Port Arthur tragedy, which claimed the lives of 35 people in Tasmania and nearly two dozen who were wounded when a man opened fire at a popular tourist attraction. The legislation intended to provide clarification on the types of licences people needed in order to own a firearm and under what circumstances they would be issued.
A series of amendments have been passed ever since the Act's inception to provide clarification and close loopholes in the original version of the Act. Perhaps the most notable of them all was signed into law in 2012. Specifically, the Weapons and Other Legislation Amendment 2012 (Qld) imposed mandatory sentences for the unlawful ownership of certain firearms as well as possible imprisonment for those entities that supply or sell guns that are deemed contraband.
But what actually constitutes a firearm within the operation of the Act? Furthermore, what penalties may result in the event you get caught with one? That is what we will go over so you can be clear about the rules and regulations on the books and what channels you are supposed to go through to ensure the law is on your side.
Any unregistered firearm is illegal to own
Before getting into the specifics of the various penalties, it is helpful to understand what guns are restricted to own in Queensland. For starters, any firearm that is unregistered is considered illegal. In fact, as outlined by the Queensland Police, it is your responsibility to surrender a unregistered firearm to the proper authorities so the registration process can be assessed and completed in accordance with the Weapons Act. Subsequent to successful registration, firearms are given a serial number and the owner is granted a license to own.
Additionally, it is illegal to carry weapons out in the public. This is because the potential ramifications such as death or injury are far too serious of a risk. This is so, even if the occurrence of these incidents are unlikely or if ownership is strictly for defensive purposes.
There are also a number of guns that are impermissible to own under any circumstances. In the National Firearms Agreement that went into place in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre, "restricted weapons" fall under Category R/E portion of the NFA. These illegal firearms include:
- Rocket launchers
- Fully automatic self-loading rifles
- Flame throwers
- Anti-tank guns
- Machine guns
- Certain antique firearms (such as muzzle loading black powder flintlock manufactured pre-1901).
In short, any military grade weapons are illegal to own in Queensland, as well as the rest of Australia.
Penalties depend on several factors
While these restrictions are straightforward, the penalties for possessing them are not quite as cut and dried. Generally speaking, the consequences of owning a banned firearm or one that has not been properly registered is assessed by the seriousness of the offense. As an example, if you unlawfully possess 10 or more weapons, as defined by the Act – the maximum penalty is 10 years in jail.
Additionally, you can still be punished if you have a permissible firearm that was not registered or was done so improperly. According to Section 50A of the Weapons Act 1990 (Qld), the maximum punishment is 120 penalty units. One penalty unit is the equivalent of $133.45. So if you were to multiply this figure by 120, you may be fined over $16,000.
If you are unable to pay the fine, you may be sentenced to jail for a period that is commensurate with the penalty units received.
Another factor that may influence the penalty associated with illegal firearm ownership is how you obtained it. For example, if you stole the firearm or ammunition and this can be proven in court, you could be imprisoned for up to 10 years. There are also offences on the books that may not be the same as theft, but might as well be in terms of how they are adjudicated. This includes concealment of certain documents or severing with the intent to steal.
Know what licence applies to you
Being a lawful owner of a firearm is pretty straightforward. You just have to know the type of weapons license needed for the one you seek to own. There are 14 types, including blank-fire, collector's, concealable, security (guard or organisation) and visitor. If you go to the Queensland Government website, you will get more specifics about each. For instance, minors may be allowed to obtain a licence for firearm use under certain circumstances. "Minors" are classified as those between the ages of 11 and 17. However, minors cannot actually acquire a firearm, meaning own one.
There are many laws that stipulate and contemplate what constitutes legal and illegal firearm possession. At Russo Lawyers, we can supply you with the knowledge you need to make sense of everything. Contact us today and let us show you how we can help.