FIREARM LAWS HAVE BEEN STRENGTHENED

On 6 December 2002, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) (comprising each State and Territory Government and the Commonwealth) agreed to reform firearm laws on a national basis to tighten the control of handguns used for sports shooting and those held as part of an historical collection.

The buyback has been extended in some States and Territories. Contact your State or Territory for the dates that the handgun buyback will end.

The agreement will reduce the number of handguns in the community, particularly concealable handguns, and significantly strengthen controls over access to handguns.

The reforms were agreed to after consultation with representatives of sporting shooter, firearm dealer and historical collector organisations.

You may be affected by the reforms if you are a sporting shooter, firearm dealer or importer or an historical collector.

Summary of the changes
COAG agreed that from 1 July 2003 the classes of handguns permitted for sports shooting purposes will be restricted on the basis of calibre, barrel length and magazine/shot capacity.

Sporting shooters will be prohibited from importing, purchasing, possessing or using a handgun which has:

• a calibre that is greater than .38”, (unless the handgun is used to participate in a specially accredited event, in which case a handgun of up to .45” calibre will be permitted).
• a barrel length of less than 120 mm for semi-automatic handguns and 100 mm for revolvers and single-shot handguns; and
• a magazine/shot capacity that exceeds 10 rounds.

Specially accredited events
The majority of States and Territories have agreed that the events of metallic silhouette and single (or western) action should be specially accredited for the use of handguns up to .45” calibre.

Highly-specialised handguns custom-designed for target shooting are exempt from the barrel length restriction. Black powder muzzle-loading pistols and cap and ball revolvers are exempt from the calibre, barrel length and magazine/shot capacity restrictions.

On 20 December 2002 the Commonwealth Government amended the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations 1956 to prevent the importation of prohibited handguns by sporting shooters and their direct sale to sporting shooters by firearm importers.

Each State and Territory agreed to amend its firearm laws by 1 July 2003 to prevent the purchase, possession and use of prohibited handguns by sporting shooters.

States and Territories will also introduce new measures to tighten controls over the licensing of sporting shooters and historical collectors and their access to handguns.

If not already in place, States and Territories will also establish substantial penalties for the illegal possession of a firearm.

The National Handgun Buyback
To remove handguns from the community COAG agreed that a handgun buyback will operate from 1 July 2003 to 31 December 2003. In Victoria, the handgun buyback will commence on 1 August 2003 and in New South Wales and South Australia, the handgun buyback will commence on 1 October 2003.

Under the buyback sporting shooters, dealers and importers and historical collectors will be compensated for the surrender of certain handguns, parts and accessories.

Amnesty

The amnesty has been extended in some States and Territories. Contact your State or Territory to find out when the amnesty ends.

COAG agreed that from 1 July 2003 to 31 December 2003 there will be an amnesty for illegally-held handguns (i.e. handguns that are unregistered or handguns that are held by an unlicensed person). People will be able to surrender these handguns without incurring a criminal penalty for their possession. No compensation will be paid for illegally-held handguns.