The use of firearms in Western Australia is legislated under the Firearms Act 1973 (‘the Act’) and the Firearms Regulations 1974. The Act creates a range of offences involving the improper use, possession and storage of firearms. Failure to comply with the Act may result in a person having their firearms seized and being charged with firearms offences. A person’s firearms licence may also be revoked if they are charged with firearms offences.
It is a crime for an unlicensed person to possess, purchase, sell or carry firearms. Where three or more weapons are sold without a licence, a finding of guilt can result in imprisonment for a maximum of 14 years (The Act, Section 19).
However, where a person has held a firearms licence that has expired but can still be renewed, and the person possesses, purchases, sells or carries firearms, this is an offence that is punishable by a fine of up to $2000 only.
Storage Of Firearms Offences
A person who is licensed to possess firearms must ensure that all firearms are stored as set out in Schedule 4 of the Firearms Regulations. Schedule 4 states that firearms must be stored in a steel cabinet at least 2mm thick, which is locked and anchored from the inside to two or more immovable surfaces.
Section 23(9) of the Act makes it an offence for a person responsible for a firearm not to provide and use adequate storage facilities or to comply with security requirements for the storage of a firearm. The maximum penalty for a first offence is a fine of $2,000 and for a second or subsequent offence, a fine of $4,000 or imprisonment for 12 months.
General Firearms Offences
Section 23 of the Act contains a range of general firearms offences. These firearms offences attract fines and terms of imprisonment and may also result in the seizure of firearms and the revocation of a person’s Firearms License.
These offences include:
- Permitting a person who is drug or alcohol-affected or a person of unsound mind to take possession of a firearm (Maximum penalty $6,000 fine or 18 months imprisonment;
- Physically possessing a firearm while affected by drugs or alcohol If the firearm is loaded then the maximum penalties are imprisonment for a period of 2 years or a fine of $8 000, in any other case the maximum penalties are imprisonment for 18 months or a fine of $6,000.00.
- Defacing or altering an identification mark on a firearm where the firearm was a handgun, or was modified in a prescribed manner (Maximum penalty imprisonment for seven years otherwise in any other case imprisonment for period of up to 4 years or a fine of $16 000
- Possessing a firearm whose identification mark has been defaced or altered (Maximum penalty imprisonment for seven years);
- Altering a firearm or possessing an altered firearm;
- Use or possession of a silencer; (Maximum penalty imprisonment for seven years);
- Pointing a firearm at a person (Maximum penalty imprisonment for three years or a fine of $12,000);
- Failure to take reasonable precautions to ensure a firearm’s safekeeping (Maximum penalty $2000 fine for a first offence, and $4,000 fine or imprisonment for 12 months for a second or subsequent offence);
- Allowing a child to have unlawful possession of a firearm (Maximum penalty $2000 fine for a first offence, and $4,000 fine or imprisonment for 12 months for a second or subsequent offence);
- Discharging a firearm onto, from or across a road (Maximum penalty $2000 fine for a first offence, and $4,000 fine or imprisonment for 12 months for a second or subsequent offence);
- Failing to have and use adequate storage arrangements for a firearm;
- Refusing to permit police to inspect the storage facilities provided for a firearm.
- Discharging a firearm in a way that endangers the public (Maximum penalty imprisonment for 3 years or $12,000 fine)
- Use of a firearm on another person’s property without their consent (Maximum penalty $2000 fine).
General firearms offences can be dealt with by way of a Firearms Infringement. This means that the police issue the accused with an on-the-spot fine. If the accused pays the fine on time, they do not need to attend court and do not get a criminal record. The fine imposed with a Firearms Infringement is $421. It is at the police’s discretion to decide whether to issue a person with a Firearms Infringement or charge them with offences, which may require them to attend court.
If you receive a Firearms Infringement and want to contest the offence, you can write to Licensing Services and elect to have the matter dealt with by a court.
If you need legal advice about a firearms matter or any other legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.