A Guide on the Law on Possessing an Unregistered Firearm in NSW

By Sahar Adatia and Jimmy Singh.


It is reported that on 24 August 2019, one of Melbourne’s biggest train stations was evacuated following reports that surfaced of an alleged man carrying a gun.

At around 6pm, Victoria Police were called to Southern Cross railway station in central Melbourne after a man was sighted carrying a suspicious looking item covered in black fabric that appeared to look like a gun.

At the time of the incident, the station and footbridge were flooded with more than 52,000 spectators leaving Marvel Stadium following a basketball game between USA and Australia’s Boomers.

Trains were stopped and passengers were ordered to vacate the area, which in turn sparked train and commuter chaos.

Witnesses reported a heavy police presence at the station, with authorities running around and commuters abandoning the premises with their hands on their head.

“All I saw was a lot of police running around, crowds of people with their hands up being evacuated from platforms,” witness Jarryd said.

“There were no shots fired from what I heard, just a lot of police telling people to evacuate the platform”.


Victoria Police say Item was Perceived to Look Like Firearm but no Firearm Actually Sighted

According to Victoria Police, the item at hand was perceived to look like a firearm.

However, after detaining a man and following a search of the premises, no firearm was actually sighted.

“The area will continue to be patrolled but there is no perceived danger to the public and train services will resume as normal shortly,” police said.

The man was questioned by police and assisted them with their investigation. He was eventually released.


Gun Possession in NSW: Firearms Act 1996

In NSW, the Firearms Act 1996 provides for the regulation of the possession, use, registration and licensing of firearms.

This Act came into play to regulate the national minimum standards on the ownership of firearms in the wake of the events of the Port Arthur Massacre.

The underlying principles of the Act are to:

  1. Confirm firearm possession and use as being a privilege that is conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety, and
  2. Improve public safety:
  • by imposing strict controls on the possession and use of firearms, and
  • by promoting the safe and responsible storage and use of firearms
  1. Facilitate a national approach to the control of firearms.

Under the Act, in order to possess and use a firearm, a person is now required to hold a firearms licence.

To be granted a licence, a person must fulfil several criteria. This includes that they must be over 18 years of age, be a fit and proper person, successfully complete an approved firearms safety course, and meet certain safety and storage requirements.

Additionally, a person must also have a satisfactory reason for wanting to have a firearm.

A new requirement that also surfaced as a result of the Firearms Act 1996 is that a person must register every firearm in their possession.

Previously, only pistols were required to be registered.

A person is required to make each firearm available for inspection before it can be registered.

For more details about firearms, contact our criminal lawyers across Sydney, Newcastle, Parramatta and five other locations in NSW.

Our team appear across all courts providing a free consultation. We’re available 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218.

A Guide on the Law on Possessing an Unregistered Firearm in NSW

In NSW, under Section 36 of the Firearms Act 1996, it is against the law to possess, supply, acquire or use a firearm that is not registered.

Anyone who breaches this can face a maximum penalty of 14-years imprisonment if the firearm concerned is a pistol or prohibited firearm.

In any other case of firearm, the maximum penalty is up to 5 years gaol.

Additionally, according to Section 36(2), it is a defence to a prosecution for an offence under this section if the accused person wasn’t aware or couldn’t reasonably be expected to have been aware that the firearm was not registered, provided he/she wasn’t the owner of it at the time.

Other defences to possessing an unregistered firearm include:

  • Coming into possession of it if a registration application of it has been made within 24 hours from acquiring or possessing it; or
  • If the firearm is registered in another State or Territory; or
  • You held an honest and reasonable belief that the firearm was registered.
  • You were not aware that the firearm was there.

Section 93I Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) also prohibits a person from possessing an unregistered firearm in a public place if he/she doesn’t have authority to possess it. This carries a maximum penalty of 10-years prison.

Imitation firearms also fall within the meaning of “firearm” in NSW. It’s considered something that substantially duplicates the appearance of a firearm although isn’t notwithstanding its colour, composition, weight or presence/absence of moveable part(s).

In contrast, it is a defence to possessing an imitation firearm if it’s something produced and identified as a children’s toy as outlined in section 4D Firearms Act 1996 (NSW).

It is illegal to possess a firearm if it’s not registered. In fact, to posses a firearm, one must not only have it registered, but he/she must also hold a permit or licence in NSW.

What is a “firearm”? This encompasses a gun or weapon that’s able to propel a projectile from an explosive. An air gun or blank fire firearm also fits in this description.

What is a “pistol”? This is also a firearm, and it encompasses a firearm reasonably capable of being raised and fired by a hand provided it is equal to or less than 65cm in length as expressed in rule 142 Firearms Regulation 2017 (NSW).

What is a “prohibited pistol”? This includes a pistol that has a calibre of over .38 inches; is self-loading with a barrel length of under 120mm; has a revolver with a barrel length below 100mm; and isn’t a black powder pistol. (a prohibited pistol is not a ‘prohibited firearm’).

A “prohibited firearm” is outlined in schedule 1 Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), including a self-loading shotgun designed or adapted for military reasons; or self-loading centre-fire rifle designed or adapted for military reasons; a self-loading or pump action shotgun; or a machine gun, sub machine gun or other firearm that can propel a projectile in rapid success during one pressure of the trigger.

What is “other weapon”? This encompasses offensive weapon or instrument, such as a dangerous weapon or something else that’s been adapted for an offensive reason. In addition, it can also include an object intended for use or threatened to be used for an offensive reason.

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