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Australia slipping backwards on National Firearms Agreement

5 October 2017
Gun control is back on the agenda

No Australian State or Territory has ever complied fully with the 1996 or 2002 firearms resolutions collectively formed under the National Firearms Agreement, a new report reveals today.

Firearms

The National Firearms Agreement (NFA) was established after the 1996 Port Arthur mass shooting in which a man used two semiautomatic rifles to kill 35 people and wound 19 others.

“While the most important provisions of the NFA remain substantially intact, no jurisdiction fully complies,” says the report’s lead author, Associate Professor Philip Alpers of the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health.

“Every jurisdiction has slipped backwards by varying degrees. New South Wales is the most obvious example of compliance ‘slippage’”, says Alpers.

Every jurisdiction has slipped backwards by varying degrees. New South Wales is the most obvious example of compliance ‘slippage’.
Associate Professor Philip Alpers, School of Public Health, University of Sydney

The report, commissioned by Gun Control Australia, says “non-compliance from day one, and two decades of political pressure, have steadily reduced restrictions and undermined the NFA’s original intent.”

Standout examples of current non-compliance with the NFA include:

Children and Guns

Despite NFA requirements that all applicants for a firearm licence be at least 18 years of age, every State and Territory allows minors to possess and use firearms. The licensing age for children varies from 10 to 16 years across jurisdictions.

NSW

  • Allows the use of firearms silencers, which are a prohibited weapon
  • Extends permissions for the use of semi-automatic firearms to shooters whose occupation is not pest control
  • Permits people to be trained in the use of firearms without undergoing firearms licensing
  • Adds membership of a hunting club as a ‘genuine reason’ for firearms possession.

Northern Territory

  • Authorises the possession of a pistol or revolver during the first six months of a handgun licence
  • Permits to acquire second or further firearms may be exempt from the 28-day cooling off period
  • Although personal protection is not regarded as a genuine reason for owning, possessing or using a firearm in any jurisdiction, this is still not stated in Northern territory legislation.

Queensland

  • Authorises the possession of a pistol or revolver during the first six months of a handgun licence
  • Production of a valid firearms licence is not mandatory for the purchase of ammunition
  • Specifies in legislation no limit on the quantity of ammunition which may be purchased
  • Firearm licensing proof of identity and photographic identification procedures are less stringent

South Australia

  • Authorises the possession of a pistol or revolver during the first six months of a handgun licence
  • Production of a valid firearms licence is not mandatory for the purchase of ammunition

Tasmania

  • Does not comply with any of the licensing resolutions of 2002 to regulate pistol club members

Victoria

  • Permits to acquire second or further firearms may be exempt from the 28-day cooling off period
  • Authorises the possession of a pistol or revolver during the first six months of a handgun licence
  • Specifies in legislation no limit on the quantity of ammunition which may be purchased

Western Australia

  • Permits to acquire second or further firearms may be exempt from the 28-day cooling off period
  • Firearms sales are not limited to licensed firearms dealers, and not all particulars must be recorded
  • Specifies in legislation no limit on the quantity of ammunition which may be purchased
  • Does not require that collectors’ firearms be rendered permanently inoperable

Higher Category Firearms

In most cases requirements for category B, C, D and H firearms (handguns and larger-calibre, or semi-automatic rifles and shotguns) are now less stringent than they were in 1996.

For example:

  • NSW permits the use of prohibited firearms more widely than any other jurisdiction
  • Victoria allows private ownership of automatic handguns
  • A ‘genuine need’ for a category B licence is still not generally required in South Australia, Victoria or The Northern territory
  • Queensland poorly complies with the NFA conditions for category D prohibited firearms
  • Tasmania does not prohibit the use of prohibited firearms for competitive shooting

National Firearms Registry

Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and NSW resolutions either do not, or only obliquely comply in legislation with an NFA requirement for an effective national firearms registry, a goal now delayed for over two decades. More examples of non-compliance with NFA resolutions apply to firearms collectors, ammunition collectors, museums and heirloom firearms, interstate recognition of firearms licences, firearms safety booklets, and security for interstate firearm transfers, among other provisions.

Access the Report

21 years After the National Firearms Agreement, October 2017. Research commissioned by Gun Control Australia: Authors, Philip Alpers, Adjunct Associate Professor, Sydney School of Public Health and Amelie Rossetti, GunPolicy.org

News reports

Sydney Morning Herald: Australia's tough gun laws have been weakened by the states, new report

The Guardian: Australian gun control audit finds states failed to fully comply with 1996 agreement

The Australian: Better gun laws? Australia lacks that calibre of MP today

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