NSW Firearms Regulations 2017 - The Changes you need to know about - The Loose Cannon
This article does not pretend to be a comprehensive discussion of all aspects of the new NSW Firearms Regulations 2017 which are now in effect. In this article, I am primarily addressing clauses relevant to target shooters and hunters, and I am dealing with only major issues in a document that spans 77 pages.
I am not just addressing changes, as shooters would in many instances not be aware of some of the earlier Regulations that continue into the new document.
Most of the material covered is in the first 20 pages or so, after which the Regulations start to deal with more specialised subject matter such as Dealers, Particular types of Permit, Ranges and Clubs and Amnesties.
However, there are however exemptions, see for example 149 covering transport of firearms.
Police were unable to get approval for the provision sought, regarding transportation, which would have seen all long guns being carried like a Cat CDH firearm. The Clause now requires a firearm to be carried in a manner consistent with s39, that is to say with all reasonable steps being taken, it must not be visible from outside the vehicle and must be unloaded whilst it is being conveyed.
You will note however, that the transportation PDF on the Firearms Registry website stipulates that the Commissioner has determined that ‘all reasonable steps’ have been taken by a Category AB licence holder if they have complied with the standard required for CDH.
This area therefore remains uncertain, so, if you want relatively risk free travel, comply with the CDH requirements.
LICENCE REFUSAL BASED ON ‘OPINION OF POLICE’ REJECTED
The greatest issue I had with the draft Regulations was an attempt by the Registry to give Police a discretion to refuse to issue a licence if in opinion of Police you had breached the Act in the previous ten years.
A scary prospect.
By lobbying hard, we have succeeded in ducking that bullet, however, the infringement notice structure that was obviously intended to support this system has survived intact.
INFRINGEMENT NOTICE SYSTEM
This infringement notice system is logical from a regulatory point of view. Taking small matters to Court wastes a considerable amount of Police time and Court resources. Being able to simply ‘write a ticket’, that is a bit like a road side traffic ticket without points attached, saves time, saves the individual the cost of a lawyer, punishes inappropriate behaviour and also can be guaranteed to generate a significant revenue stream as Police look for ‘results’ for time spent policing.
It shall also give greater consistency in fines. Overcoming the lottery created by the variation in attitudes found amongst Magistrate’s toward firearms matters.
USE OF PENALTY NOTICE SYSTEM IN CONJUNCTION EXISTING TESTS
Consistent with this infringement notice system is 2017 amendment to the Firearms Act that saves Police from having to seize firearms where a breach has been fixed. This begs the question, having been given a ticket, and spoken to by Police, how is the registry going to approach the matter?
Registry clearly wanted the Power to immediately form the view that a shooter in breach of the law should not be able to hold a licence for ten years.
I suspect many individuals written up with a ticket may or may not find their firearms seized, and I suspect that they shall then either receive a letter advising them that they are no longer a ‘fit and proper person’, which would be an appealable decision, or one that they are on notice that further breaches shall not be tolerated.
LIST OF PENALTY NOTICE MATTERS
There is a long list of penalty notice matters:
S39 (1) Failure to take all reasonable precautions to ensure safe keeping $550
S40 (1) Failure to store in locked receptacle $220
S41 (1) CDH storage breach $550
S45 Dealer recording transactions $220
S45A Failure to maintain records- ammunition sales $220
S46 (1) Failure to lodge dealer returns $550
S48 Insecure gun shop display $550
S59 Failure to comply with Police demand of ‘on the spot inspection’ $220
S68 Failure to produce licence / permit $550
S69 Requirement to notify change of address $550
Provisions in Regulation- Clause abbreviated to ‘Cl’
Cl 13 lost or Destroyed licence or permit $220
Cl 15 failure to notify Commissioner if genuine reason ceases $550
Cl 16 Requirement to notify change of particulars other than address $220
Cl 17 requirement to notify Commissioner of address where firearms are kept $550
Cl 30(4) Rec Hunting /Vermin control. Not in an approved hunting club $220
Cl 32(2) & (3) Member of approved hunting club. Breach of restriction on
authority conferred by licence $220
Cl 103 Club / licence member not member of approved hunting club $220
Cl 103 Failure to notify of change in personal details $220
Cl 120 Requirement to notify Commissioner when moving interstate $220
When considering the fine amounts note in respect to these fines that they are per offence, so if you have ten firearms that are not properly secured, the fine is not $550, but rather is $5,500.
People are going to need to weigh up whether it is more cost effective to pay a penalty notice or go to Court. This decision is going to need to be made on an individual basis, taking into account the number of penalty notices issued, and whether you may be able to convince the Magistrate to consider all of the charges effectively as one penalty for sentencing purposes, may have merit.
One also needs to consider the likely constitution of the Court concerned, and the type of hearing a shooter can reasonably expect to receive there.
Another factor is that with Firearms offences, a forfeiture / destruction order is often made. The Penalty Notice system does not appear to have an equivalent provision.
Consequently, one should be able to arrange recovery and sell firearms that have been seized pursuant to this process.
CERTIFYING YOUR AWARENESS OF SAFE KEEPING REQUIREMENTS
Clause 9, involves you ‘certifying that you understand and are aware of safekeeping requirements’ this shall make a prosecution for non-compliance a lot easier.
My prediction is that safe inspections are about to become as profitable to Police as a Highway Patrol shift. Expect more inspections, as evidence of Police ‘zero tolerance on gun crime’, and in order to prevent tickets being issued like confetti shooters are going to have to have their wits about them as Sergeants shall instruct Police to write tickets and get a result while out inspecting safes and firearms.
HANDGUNS AND FARMERS
Hunting and farming / grazing are now mandatory grounds for refusing a Cat H licences (Cl 11) in NSW, and, as an act of legislative bastardry, just to make sure shooters do not pursue medical or disability as an avenue for qualifying, a licence can only be granted on this ground if all of your other firearms licences have been revoked.
NEED TO NOTIFY OF CHANGES OR FACE PENALTIES
There are worrying traps in the legislation. You must for example notify the Commissioner within 14 days of a licence or permit being lost, defaced, stolen or mutilated. The penalty is 20 points ($220) if you do not. (s12) and if a replacement card is issued, you must surrender the original to Police within 14 days or 20 penalty units ($220).
If a replacement licence or permit is issued, the old one cannot be cut up like a replacement drivers licence or credit card. Instead you have to surrender it at a Police station, or you will be fined Cl 16, $220.
Within 14 days of acquiring a firearm you are required to notify the Commissioner of its storage address when not in use ‘in an approved manner’(S17). If you do not, you can be fined up to 50 penalty units ($550). This does not apply if the information was provided at the time of applying for a PTA. Cl 17(2).
If your reason for possessing a firearm ceases to exist you, or there are any other changes in particulars other than your address, you must advise the registry within 14 days of any change in (s15 & 16) or you shall be fined $220.
This suggests to the writer that one needs to have more than one ‘genuine reason’ in place. If you have permission to shoot on only one property, consider getting a Restricted Game Licence, so that if the property sells, you do not find yourself in a difficult position.
If you lodge an application before a licence or permit expires, the licence or permit remains in force until such time as the applicant has been advised of the issue or refusal (s19). A sensible provision that avoids a number of the issues British shooters are currently experiencing with their Police.
Interstate licences are recognised under s26.
S27 Regulates licences held by Government agencies. A maximum penalty of $550 applies, for amongst other things, failing to have a firearm serviced by a Firearms dealer annually.
A licence holder cannot store a firearm on land wholly or partly used for residential purposes unless it is their principle residence. (s38).
The Registry need to be notified within 14 days of any change in storage address and be provided with particulars of storage arrangements. Failure to do so shall lead to a fine of $550 (s17(3).
WARNING. People who have firearms stored at holiday homes and farms are advised to move them home as a matter of urgency, because, even if they have registered a safe at the farm for the purposes of storage, they are now illegally stored. You shall also need to advise Police of changed storage arrangements.
Cl 32- if shooting on private land, you must produce evidence of permission upon request, to Police within 48 hours. Penalty for non-compliance 20 penalty units.
Cl 33 extends permits and licences to cover activities such as sighting, tuning a firearm and familiarisation with and testing of ammunition.
National Firearms Lawyer
P: (02) 6299 9690
M: 0427 280 962
Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.
He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.
This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice.
He can assist you with:
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