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Safe keeping of firearms


Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555

John Sutton

In NSW, it is a requirement of firearm owners to take all reasonable precautions to ensure that the firearm is kept in safekeeping, that it doesn’t get lost or stolen and that it does not come into possession of a person who is not authorised to possess the firearm.

A contravention of the above requirements can carry up to 50 penalty units in fines and 2 years imprisonment depending on the type of firearm involved. There are different requirements for safekeeping depending on the category of firearm licence that you hold.

In NSW, a court can impose any of the following penalties for this charge:


The offence of Unregistered Firearms is contained in section 39 of the Firearms Act 1996 which states: A person who possesses a firearm must take all reasonable precautions to ensure:

  • its safe keeping, and
  • that it is not stolen or lost, and
  • that it does not come into the possession of a person who is not authorised to possess the firearm.

Maximum penalty: 50 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years, or both, if it is established beyond reasonable doubt that the firearm concerned was a prohibited firearm or a pistol, or 20 penalty units or imprisonment for 12 months, or both, in any other case.


  • Not keeping your firearm stores in a locked receptacle that is of a type approved by the Commissioner
  • Keeping your firearm in a receptacle that is easily penetrable
  • Not having the receptacle appropriately fixed to a wall
  • Not keeping any ammunition separate from the receptacle containing the firearm
  • Not keeping any ammunition is a locked container of a type approved by the Commissioner


To convict you of not keeping a firearm safely, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you were in possession of a firearm; and
  • You failed to take all reasonable precautions to ensure:
    • Its safe keeping; or
    • That it was not stolen or lost; or
    • That it did not come into the possession of an unauthorised person.


Possible defences to failing to keep a firearm safely include but are not limited to:

  • Duress;
  • Necessity;
  • That your firearm was in fact kept safely
  • That you were not in possession of the firearm


This matter is a summary matter and will be heard in the Local Court.

Types of penalties:

Jail: This is the most serious penalty for this charge and involves full time detention in a correctional facility. Read more.

Home Detention: Home detention is an alternative to full-time imprisonment. In effect the gaol sentence is served at your address rather than in a gaol. Read more.

Intensive correction order (ICO): This option has replaced periodic detention. The court can order you to comply with a number of conditions, such as attending counselling or treatment, not consuming alcohol, complying with a curfew and performing community service. Read more.

Periodic detention (commonly known as weekend detention): This form of imprisonment ceased to be a sentencing option in October 2010.

Suspended sentence: This is a jail sentence that is suspended upon you entering into a good behaviour bond. Provided the terms of the good behaviour bond are obeyed the jail sentence will not come into effect. A suspended sentence is only available for sentences of imprisonment of up to two years. Read more.

Community service order(CSO): This involves either unpaid work in the community at a place specified by probation and parole or attendance at a centre to undertake a course, such as anger management. In order to be eligible for a CSO you have to be assessed by an officer of the probation service as suitable to undertake the order. Read more.

Good behaviour bond: This is an order of the court that requires you to be of good behaviour for a specified period of time. The court will impose conditions that you will have to obey during the term of the good behaviour bond. The maximum duration of a good behaviour bond is five years. Read more.

Fines: When deciding the amount of a fine for a safe keeping of firearms charge the magistrate or judge should consider your financial situation and your ability to pay any fine they set. Read more.

Section 10: avoiding a criminal record. Normally, when you plead guilty to a criminal offence, the court imposes a penalty and records a conviction. If the court records a conviction, you will have a criminal record. However, if we can convince the court not to convict you, there will be no penalty of any type and no criminal record. In all criminal cases, the court has the discretion not to convict you, but to give you a Section 10 dismissal instead. Read more.

where to next?

If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.

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