JJ Blog Content 24 APR 2023 05

Penalties and Defences for Unregistered Firearm Possession in NSW

The laws regarding firearm possession in Australia are stringent. In New South Wales, owning a firearm requires registering it and obtaining a licence. Failure to do so can result in severe penalties and even imprisonment. 

It is essential to understand the law surrounding firearms in NSW, as the consequences of breaking them can be life-altering. Whether you are a firearm owner or merely interested in the topic, this article will provide you with valuable information on the legal consequences of unregistered firearm possession in NSW.

What Is an Unregistered Firearm?

In accordance with Section 4 of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), a firearm refers to a gun or another weapon capable of firing a projectile by means of an explosive, including blank fire firearms or air guns. However, certain items, such as paintball markers within the meaning of the Paintball Act 2018 (NSW) or anything declared not to be a firearm by regulations, do not fall under this definition.

An unregistered firearm is a firearm that has not been registered with the appropriate authority in NSW. The law requires firearm owners to register their firearms and obtain a licence to possess them legally. Firearms licences are categorised into various licence categories, including Category A, B, C, D, H, Firearms Collector and Firearms Dealer. You can find the details about what firearms are applicable to each of these categories here.

Some types of firearms that must be registered are pistols, rifles and shotguns. The registration process is not limited to these types of firearms and can vary depending on the specific firearm in question. It is your responsibility as a firearm owner to ensure that you have registered your firearm appropriately and obtained a licence to possess it legally in NSW.

The Law on Unregistered Firearm Possession in NSW

Under Section 36(1) of the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), it is considered an offence to possess an unregistered firearm, which may result in a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment or 14 years if the firearm is classified as a pistol or prohibited firearm. The penalties may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case, including the type of firearm and the intention behind possessing it. The prosecution is responsible for proving beyond reasonable doubt that you have supplied, acquired, possessed, or used a firearm that is not registered. 

Note that the law does not differentiate between possessing a loaded or unloaded firearm, or a functioning or non-functioning firearm. Possessing any unregistered firearm, regardless of its condition, is illegal in NSW.

Defences for Unregistered Firearm Possession

In some cases, it may be possible to mount a defence against a charge of unregistered firearm possession. The defences available will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. Some possible defences include:

  1. Statutory defences: lack of knowledge or reasonable expectation of the firearm being unregistered, not being the owner at the time of the alleged offence, being a licensed firearms dealer and making an application for registration within 24 hours of acquiring or taking possession of the firearm, and being a resident of another State or Territory where the firearm was registered under a law in force in that other State or Territory.
  2. Honest and reasonable mistake of fact: if the accused person can demonstrate that they believed they were in lawful possession of the firearm due to an honest and reasonable mistake of fact.
  3. Duress: the accused person was forced to possess the firearm under threat of harm to themselves or others.
  4. Other general legal defences: self-defence, using it for work or sport, or necessity.

What to Do If You Are Charged with Unregistered Firearm Possession

If you have been charged with unregistered firearm possession in NSW, it is important to take immediate action to protect your rights and present a strong defence. Here are some steps you should take:

  1. Contact a firearms lawyer: Seek legal advice from a criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible after being charged. Lawyers specialising in firearms can help you understand the charges against you, explain your legal options and advise you on the best course of action. These gun lawyers can also help you understand the criteria for each defence and assess the strength of your case.
  2. Do not make any statements to police: Exercise your right to remain silent and not make any statements to police without the presence of your firearms lawyer. Anything you say to the police could be used as evidence against you in court.
  3. Gather evidence and documentation: Your firearms lawyer may ask you to gather any evidence or documentation that could support your defence, such as receipts, witness statements or photographs.
  4. Attend all court appearances: Attend all court appearances as required and follow any bail conditions imposed by the court.

Remember that being charged with unregistered firearm possession does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted. With the help of an experienced criminal defence lawyer, you may be able to mount a successful defence and avoid the serious consequences of a conviction.

Possessing an unregistered firearm in NSW can have serious consequences, including hefty fines, imprisonment and a criminal record. It is important to understand the law and the penalties for unregistered firearm possession, as well as the possible defences and steps to take if charged. If you or someone you know has been charged with unregistered firearm possession in NSW, get legal advice from a firearms lawyer who has experience in handling firearms cases.  

At our Jackson John Defence Lawyers, we specialise in criminal defence law, including firearms cases. Our experienced lawyers specialising in firearms are committed to providing our clients with effective and personalised legal representation.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you.