A permanent, Australia-wide amnesty on unregistered and otherwise illegal firearms came into force yesterday, enabling anyone to hand in illegal weapons without fear of penalty. But there are caveats.
While the basic facts of the amnesty are the same around the country, some states and territories have different rules about what is and is not allowed under the amnesty.
We’ve summarised the major points for you in this article, which also includes links to detailed information from each Australian state and territory.
Essentially, in the words of the official announcement on the CrimeStopper website, the following statements are facts:
- “The Amnesty indemnifies anyone from prosecution who is surrendering an unlawful possession of a firearm, firearm parts and ammunition.” Nor will there be any impact on your firearms licence, nor on your ability to hold one in the future.
- “The amnesty does not protect people found in possession of an unregistered firearm.” In other words, if the gun isn’t handed in, or isn’t in the process of being handed in, it’s illegal to have it.
- “In most states, firearms can be surrendered at licensed firearm dealers if you would prefer not to go to a police station. No questions asked.” See below for which states don’t involve dealers.
The amnesty also covers registered firearms that are no longer wanted, as well as other weapons and prohibited items, subject to each state or territory’s individual criteria, which you can find in the links at the end of this article.
If you are in an area subject to a strict COVID lockdown, surrendering a firearm is likely not a lawful reason to leave home. Check whatever specific directions have been issued at the time.
CAN I SURRENDER FIREARMS ANONYMOUSLY?
There is no clear information provided about whether you must identify yourself when handing in guns or other items, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t remain anonymous. In some cases, you will want to provide your identity, such as when requesting registration for whatever you’re surrendering.
The situation varies state to state. In Victoria, if you go to the police you have to complete paperwork, but if you go to a dealer you don’t. Some states require you to complete forms, no matter what, while in other places it’s the police or dealer who handle the paperwork and the implication is that you don’t have to put a name to it.
We will try to clarify this and update the story.
REGISTERING AN UNREGISTERED FIREARM
Every jurisdiction allows you to register or licence a firearm you surrender, assuming the gun fits allowable categories and doesn’t pop up as something of interest in the police databases. If you wish to keep it for yourself, you’ll have to go through the usual acquisition process, such as getting a permit to acquire, and you’ll have to hold the correct category of licence.
If you don’t hold a licence, you can apply for one as per normal protocols.
SELLING YOUR UNREGISTERED FIREARM
Governments will not pay compensation for guns that are handed in. However, where registration is permitted, you may be able to negotiate a sale if you hand in the firearm to a dealer who sees value in it.
You may potentially even negotiate a sale to any other holder of a firearms licence on the premise that the gun will eventually be registered, subject to the usual PTAs etc once that happens, but you’ll first have to surrender the firearm to the dealer (or police in some cases) who will facilitate it all, and you’ll have to wait for the registration process to be completed. Discuss this with your local dealer.
The ACT and SA simply say “no” to you selling an unregistered firearm during the amnesty, but once you get it registered, selling would be quite legal under the normal process. It doesn’t mean you can’t do the deal beforehand, but you must surrender it first, and no handover or officially recognised change of ownership can happen until the paperwork is completed.
In Victoria, you can sell as long as the firearm is “cleared of any involvement in offence/s, or is not identified for other needs, such as museums”. The WA police say they will also check if there’s anything untoward in the gun’s history, such as theft, and we believe other jurisdictions are likely to do the same.
TO BOOK OR NOT TO BOOK?
NSW, Victoria and WA require you to make a booking with police or a dealer before you surrender firearms.
Elsewhere, a booking is preferred but not compulsory. In Queensland and Tassie, you’re told not take firearms into a police station or dealer unannounced; leave the gun locked in the car while you first go in and explain what you’re about to do. That’s good practise in other states as well.
APPROVED DEALERS AND POLICE STATIONS
Not all dealers and police stations act as drop-off points for firearms. Check the lists of places published for each state and territory in the links below.
In the ACT and WA, you may only take firearms to a police station, not to a dealer.
SPECIFIC STATE AND TERRITORY INFORMATION
The imagery used here is taken from the CrimeStoppers video promoting the amnesty, which implies illegal firearms disappearing from society.