Whether you are planning to apply for a firearm licence or have been charged with a firearm offence, you need to understand the firearms laws in Australia to ensure you adhere to the lawful ownership and know what penalties you face for firearm offences.
In Australia, the right to private firearm ownership is not guaranteed by law. Only licensed firearm owners may lawfully acquire, possess or transfer firearms and ammunition. Firearm laws in Australia largely fall under the jurisdiction of the states and territories. Each has its own legislation. Beyond state laws regulating firearm acquisition, ownership, possession, use and storage of firearms, the Commonwealth deals with serious offences such as unlawful importation of firearms and ammunition.
Firearm charges are taken seriously by Victorian courts. Imprisonment is the maximum penalty for most firearm offences and harsh penalties are often imposed on those in possession of firearms without a licence or on those who are prohibited from possessing one. The main legislation relating to firearm offences in Victoria is the Firearms Act 1996 (Vic). This act outlines laws relating to firearm licensing, manufacturing, acquisition, ownership, possession, use and storage. These laws are designed to limit firearm possession and increase public safety.
The definition of a firearm includes weapons such as handguns, shotguns, rifles, and homemade weapons. Imitation firearms are also covered under firearm laws in Victoria.
Any firearm in your possession must be registered and you need a licence to legally carry a firearm. To be eligible for a firearm licence, you must have a genuine reason for needing the licence. A genuine reason to possess a firearm could include: gun club membership, hunting, target shooting, firearm collection, pest control, and in certain narrow circumstances, for occupational purposes. In Victoria, personal protection is not a genuine reason.
In most jurisdictions, you must be over 18 years of age to obtain a licence for firearms, however, in some places minors are able to obtain a licence. Background checks are conducted when you apply for a firearm licence. If you are considered unfit to carry a firearm or have been found guilty at court of certain offences you will not be granted a licence.
You may be required to undertake a firearm safety course before you receive your firearm licence.
If you have a firearm licence, you are required to store all firearms you own correctly. It is an offence to not store your firearms correctly, with a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment.
Given the strict laws that exist with respect to firearms it is perhaps unsurprising that there are many different firearm offences, some of which include:
- Being a prohibited person and possessing, carrying or using of a firearm;
- Possessing, carrying or using a longarm firearm without a licence;
- Possessing, carrying or using a longarm firearm that is not registered;
- Possessing, carrying or using a handgun without a licence;
- Possessing, carrying or using a handgun that is not registered;
- Possessing a traffickable quantity of firearms;
- Possessing cartridge ammunition without a licence;
- Failing to ensure a firearm or ammunition is carried/used in a safe manner;
- Failing to store a firearm correctly;
- Possessing a firearm when under the influence of intoxicating liquor;
- Using a firearm in a dangerous manner;
- Possessing a loaded firearm in a public place;
- Discharging a firearm in a premises or on a vehicle; and
- Damaging property with a firearm.
The penalties for a firearm offence may vary from a fine, suspension or cancellation of your firearm licence to a criminal conviction, or imprisonment. It will depend on which offence you are charged with, how many charges you are facing and the circumstances of your offence, as well as whether you are a first time offender or have committed previous offences.
If you are charged with a firearm offence in Victoria, make sure you hire criminal lawyers in Melbourne who understand the gun laws in Victoria and can provide you with comprehensive advice about your options and how to set about achieving the best possible outcome in your case.
In circumstances where your application for a gun licence has been refused, or if your licence has not been renewed or has been revoked, a criminal lawyer will also be able to provide you with advice and assistance.
Firearm offences are taken very seriously by the courts, so it is crucial to seek advice from criminal lawyers in Melbourne, experienced with firearm offences.
If you are charged with a firearm offence and require the legal services of criminal lawyers in Melbourne, contact the team at Stary Norton Halphen.