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Unlicensed Firearm (Unauthorised Possession of Firearm)


Contact Armstrong Legal:
Sydney: (02) 9261 4555

John Sutton

In NSW, using or possessing a firearm that you are not authorised to carries a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. This offence is different to unauthorised possession or use of a pistol or prohibited firearm, which are more serious offences (link to s7 offence).

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


The offence of unauthorised possession or use of a firearm is contained in section 7A of the Firearms Act 1996 which states: A person must not possess or use a firearm unless the person is authorised to do so by a licence or permit. Maximum penalty: imprisonment for 5 years.


If a person does not hold a firearms licence at all and they are in possession of, or are found using, a firearm:

  • If you have a firearms licence but are breaking a condition of that licence, for example:
    • There are different licence categories that allow people to use different types of guns – so if you are using a gun that you are not licenced to use you would be guilty of this offence.
    • If you are using a gun for a purpose that you are not licenced for. For example, if you have a gun licence because you are employed in the security industry but are using your gun to do recreational shooting.


To convict you of unauthorised possession of a firearm, the prosecution must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That you were in possession of or using a firearm, and:
    • You did not have a licence to do so; or
    • You had a firearm licence but you were using or possessing a firearm in a way that contravenes a condition of your licence; or
    • You had a firearm licence but were using the firearm otherwise than for the purpose established by you as being the genuine reason for possessing or using the firearm.


Possible defences to unauthorised use or possession of a firearm charge include but are not limited to:

  • Duress;
  • Necessity;
  • You had a licence that allowed you to possess the firearm;
  • You had a licence that allowed you to use the firearm in the manner that you were.


This offence is a Table 2 offence. This means that the matter will likely be dealt with in the Local Court, however, the DPP can elect to have the matter dealt with in the District Court. If they do so, this will give rise to harsher penalties.

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 possess unlicensed firearm 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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