JJ Blog Content 5 MAR 2023

Firearm Offences in NSW: Understanding the Laws and Penalties

In New South Wales, there are various offences relating to the use and misuse of firearms, which are outlined in the Firearms Act 1996, the Crimes Act 1900 and the Weapons Prohibition Act 1988. Following the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996, which left 35 people dead and 23 wounded, firearms legislation was comprehensively reformed across all Australian states. As a result, gun laws between states and territories are now largely aligned with the National Firearms Agreement.

What Are Firearms?

According to Section 4 of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), a firearm is defined as a weapon that can or could at any point propel a projectile by means of an explosive, including blank fire firearms and air guns. This definition does not encompass paintball markers as defined by the Paintball Act 2018, nor anything specifically deemed not to be a firearm by relevant regulations.

When Is It Illegal to Possess a Firearm in NSW?

One of the key requirements for possessing a firearm in NSW is having a genuine reason, which does not include the protection of persons or property. Genuine reasons include being the occupier of rural land or being a current member of an approved hunting club.

In NSW, the following are some firearm offences one can make when it comes to the use or possession of firearms:

Unauthorised Possession or Use of Firearms

Section 7A of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) pertains to the unauthorised possession or use of firearms and outlines that it is illegal for an individual to use or possess a firearm without proper authorisation, which can be obtained through a license or permit. A person must use a firearm only for the genuine reasons stated in their license. It is also considered a firearm offence if a person’s use of a firearm breaches the conditions outlined in their license.

Under this legislation, the maximum penalty for the offence of possessing or using a firearm without authorisation is five years of imprisonment. However, the court may choose to impose a lesser punishment based on the circumstances of the case.

Unauthorised Use or Possession of Prohibited Firearms

The Firearms Registry provides a list of weapons that are forbidden by law. To possess or use any of these prohibited weapons, one must obtain a permit. Section 7 of the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 (NSW) specifies that it is illegal for an individual to use or possess a prohibited firearm without authorisation. 

On the other hand, a person who possesses a license to use or possess a prohibited firearm may be charged with a firearm offence if their use of the firearm conflicts with the purpose of owning the prohibited firearm. Additionally, an individual can be convicted of a firearm offence if their use of the prohibited firearms violates the terms of their license. 

In NSW, unauthorised use or possession of prohibited firearms is punishable by a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison. However, depending on the specifics of the case, the Court may opt for a less severe penalty, which could differ from imprisonment.

Possessing or Using Unregistered Firearms

According to Section 36 of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), it is illegal to acquire or use an unregistered firearm in NSW and an individual is prohibited from possessing, supplying or buying one. However, if the accused can prove to the Court with the help of lawyers specialising in firearms that they had no knowledge of the firearm’s unregistered status, it can serve as a defence.

Notably, licensed firearm dealers are exempt from this offence if they register the firearm within 24 hours of acquisition. Moreover, possessing a firearm registered under the law of another state, but not in NSW, does not qualify as an offence.

Penalties for possessing, purchasing or selling an unregistered firearm include a maximum of 5 years imprisonment. If the weapon is a prohibited firearm, the punishment can be up to 14 years in prison.

Losing Firearms

Section 39 of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) outlines the responsibility of individuals who possess firearms to keep them secure. As per this legislation, the duty of a firearm owner includes:

  • Ensuring that the firearm is not lost or stolen.
  • Preventing unauthorised access to the firearm.

If a firearm is lost, the offender can face a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment or a fine of 20 penalty units, which is approximately $2,200. In cases where the firearm is a prohibited weapon, the maximum penalty can be two years imprisonment or a fine of 50 penalty units, or both.

Giving an Unauthorised Person a Firearm or a Part of a Firearm to Possess or Use

According to Section 50B of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), it is prohibited to transfer firearms or parts of firearms to individuals without a permit or license to possess firearms. Furthermore, if an individual receives a part of a firearm, they must have a permit and it must relate to the firearm they possess. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. In the case of prohibited weapons, the maximum penalty increases to 14 years imprisonment.

For a list of the main statutes and regulations governing sentencing of firearms offences, as well as penalties for unauthorised  possession of a firearm in each jurisdiction, not just in NSW, click here.

If you are facing gun charges in Australia, it is important to seek legal advice from experienced gun lawyers or firearms lawyers in NSW. The laws surrounding firearms offences can be complex and the penalties severe, which is why it is essential to have a firearms lawyer knowledgeable with gun charges in Australia on your side.

Jackson John Defence Lawyers is a highly experienced law firm with a proven track record of defending clients charged with firearm offences. Our team of firearms lawyers has the necessary expertise, knowledge, and skills to defend clients against a wide range of firearm offences, including but not limited to, unauthorised possession or use of firearms, possession of prohibited firearms,and supply of firearms to unauthorised persons.

We take pride in our quality of work, and we are committed to providing our clients with the best possible outcome in their case. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.