What is the Law and Penalties for Possessing or Using Firearms?

 

It is reported that on 5 April, Cameron Jeffrey Wilson, while in his Washington apartment had allegedly stored drugs in his anus.

However, that’s not all that he allegedly did.

While in his apartment, the 27-year-old man had also placed a pistol in his front pocket before it accidentally discharged.

According to a filed affidavit dated 16 April, the pistol had shot a bullet right through his testicles.

In a bizarre twist, his first destination wasn’t to the hospital.

Wilson had allegedly directed his partner to first dispose the pistol at the Lincoln Park in Wenatchee, Washington. There is it reported that he allegedly disposed of the gun by handing it to a mate.

When he eventually reached the hospital, according to the court records, a balloon of cannabis came out from his anus while his wounds were being treated by doctors.

Wilson has been convicted 13 times. After discovering the wound, police attended the hospital before searching his vehicle.

Following a search of Wilson’s car, police found a bag of drugs inside jeans that were stained in blood.

But Wilson voluntarily approached and surrendered to police on 18 April, after police had issued a warrant for his arrest.

As if things were not weird enough, another balloon of cannabis slipped from inside his anus while he was being strip-searched and processed at the Chelan County Regional Justice Centre, according to court papers.

His behaviour didn’t just stop there. It is alleged that during a call he made from prison, he instructed his girlfriend to not cooperate with the police investigation in the matter. This is while his phone was being listened to by authorities.

Wilson now faced possession of firearm charges, drug possession charges and 4 charges of tampering with a witness.

A Guide on the Law on Possessing Firearms in NSW

In NSW, the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) was repealed in response to the Port Arthur Massacre.

It now regulates the possession, use, purchase, supply and manufacture of firearms to protect public safety as a priority over the privilege of gun ownership.

The law requires a person to hold a licence or permit in order to be allowed to possess or use a firearm or prohibited firearm or pistol. In addition, the law prohibits anyone from possessing, using, acquiring or supplying a firearm if it’s not registered.

A “firearm” includes a gun or other weapon capable of propelling a projectile via an explosive. It includes a blank fire firearm, or air gun.

A pistol is also considered a “firearm” if it is reasonably capable of being raised and fired by a hand, and if it doesn’t exceed 65cm in length (Rule 142 Firearms Regulation 2017 (NSW)).

A pistol also includes a “prohibited pistol” which is a pistol that:

  • Has a calibre of more than .38 inch; and/or
  • Is self-loading with a barrel length of below 120mm; and/or
  • Is a revolver with a barrel length under 100mm; and
  • Is not a black powder pistol.

A prohibited pistol is not considered a ‘prohibited firearm’.

An air gun is a gun which can propel a projectile via any gas or mixtures of gases, including air (but not including a gas or mixture of gases generated by an explosive), or a gun that can propel a projectile by means of a spring, if in either case it is operated or designed for operation by means of a trigger or similar device.

“Other weapon” here, includes an offensive weapon or instrument which includes a dangerous weapon or anything else that has been adapted for an offensive purpose. It also includes something else that is intended to be used or threatened to be used for an offensive purpose. This is regardless of it ordinarily being used for a non-offensive purpose.

A “prohibited firearm” is defined in schedule 1 to the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW), and includes:

  • A self-loading shotgun that’s designed or adapted for military purposes; or
  • A self-loading centre-fire rifle designed or adapted for military purposes; or
  • A lever action shotgun with a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds; or
  • A self-loading or pump action shotgun; or
  • A self-loading centre-fire rifle; or
  • A self-loading rimfire rifle; or
  • A machine gun, sub machine gun or other firearm with the capability of propelling projectiles in rapid succession during one pressure of the trigger.

Imitation Firearms

Under the law, even an ‘imitation firearm’ is generally considered a “firearm” in NSW. An imitation firearm is an object that substantially duplicates the appearance of a firearm but isn’t a firearm regardless of its weight, colour, composition, or the presence or absence of moveable parts.

However, if the imitation firearm is an object that is produced and identified as a children’s toy, then it is not considered a “firearm” or “imitation firearm”. (section 4D Firearms Act 1996 (NSW)).

Possessing or Using an Unregistered Firearms

It is a crime to possess, use, acquire or even supply a firearm if the firearm is not registered in NSW (section 36(1) Firearms Act 1996 (NSW)).

Anyone in breach of this law will face a maximum penalty of up to 14-years imprisonment if the firearm is a pistol or prohibited firearm. However, if it is any other form of firearm the maximum penalty is up to 5-years jail.

An accused person facing this charge will be found not guilty if any of the following defences apply:

  • The accused didn’t know or couldn’t reasonable have been expected to know that the firearm was unregistered if the accused wasn’t the owner of it at the time; or
  • If the accused is a licenced firearms dealer who had made an application for registration of the firearm within 24-hours from acquiring or possessing it; or
  • If the accused person has already registered the firearm in another Territory or State.
  • Self-Defence; or
  • You honestly and reasonably believed that it was registered.

This offence is considered an “indictable offence” which will be dealt with summarily in the Local Court unless the prosecution elect to have it dealt with in the District Court. This charge is commonly dealt with in the Local Court.

Unauthorised Possession or Use of Firearms

In NSW, anyone who is guilty of possessing or using a firearm, unless authorised to under a licence or permit will face a maximum penalty of up to 5-years imprisonment (section 7A Firearms Act 1996 (NSW)).

In addition, anyone who holds such a licence but possess or uses a firearm for a purpose outside the conditions of that licence or does so not for a genuine reason in accordance with that licence will also be guilty of this offence attracting the same maximum penalty.

Some defences to this charge include, duress or necessity and self-defence.

This is also considered an indictable offence which usually is dealt with in the Local Court, unless the prosecution elects to have it dealt with on indictment. If dealt with on indictment, it will be brought up to the District Court from the Local Court to be dealt with by a Judge.

Unauthorised Possession or Use of a Prohibited Firearm

It is illegal to possess or use a pistol or prohibited firearm without an authorised permit or licence in NSW. Anyone found to be guilty of this offence attracts a maximum penalty of up to 14-years imprisonment. (section 7 Firearms Act 1996 (NSW)).

The same maximum penalty applies to anyone who holds such a licence but possesses or uses the prohibited firearm or pistol outside the conditions of that licence, or does so for a reason other than a genuine reason under the licence.

The same defences that can apply to the earlier outlined charges can also apply here.

This charge is also an indictable offence which is usually dealt with in the Local Court unless elected by the prosecution to be dealt with in the District Court.

Where offences of this occur on or after 21 August 2015, the law also attaches a 4-year standard non-parole period. This simply means that this offence carries a prescribed 4-years minimum period of jail before an offender is eligible for release on parole if the offending conduct is considered by the court to fall in the middle of the range of objective seriousness.

This 4-year standard non-parole period attached to this offence is only used by the Courts as a guide in order to arrive at an appropriate and fair sentence. It is not applied as a mandatory requirement.

Possessing an Unregistered Firearm in Public

Anyone who possesses an unregistered firearm in a public place who isn’t authorised to posses the firearm will face a maximum penalty of up to 10-years imprisonment under section 93I Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).

Some defences to this charge include self-defence, duress or necessity, or where the accused person didn’t know that he/she had the physical control or possession of the firearm, or where the accused person was not in a public place at the time.

As experienced criminal defence lawyers with offices in Sydney city, Parramatta and various locations across NSW. We provide a free first appointment with our specialist lawyers.

Call our hotline 24/7 on (02) 8606 2218 to speak to us.

About Jimmy Singh

Mr. Jimmy Singh is the Principal Lawyer at Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia - Australia's Leading Criminal Defence Lawyers, Delivering Exceptional Results in all Australian Courts.

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