Firearms licences used to be issued for life. However, the 1992 Arms Amendment Act reduced this to 10 years and introduced a licensing system which provided for the call-in of all existing firearms licences.
To own a firearm without having a licence is a serious offence, punishable by three months in jail or a $1000 fine or both. Anyone who supplies a firearm to an unlicensed person also commits an offence which carries the same penalties.
The current licence consists of a plastic card containing a photograph of the holder and must be shown when buying firearms or ammunition. Private sales require both parties to produce their firearms licences before the firearm changes hands. Mail order and Internet sales require a form signed by a police officer to say that he has sighted the licence of the purchaser and that he is a suitable person to take possession of the firearm.
We are concerned that as many as 50,000 people were not systematically checked when they did not renew their license by 1998. Although processes have since been put in place a backlog of this magnitude will have potential to be a source of illegal weapons.
COLFO supports the firearms licensing system that vets the suitability of a person to possess firearms rather than a system of registration of individual firearms. Those who do not re-apply within six months of the call-in notice have their licences revoked, but in many cases no follow-up check is made to establish whether the persons concerned still possess firearms.
COLFO strongly supports that the whereabouts of such non-responding licence holders be ascertained and the person visited. Those who no longer have firearms should be required to explain where and how they disposed of them. If necessary, additional resources should be allocated to enable the Police to carry out this task.
COLFO does not support the registration of individual firearms or airguns and considers this would impose an unwarranted legal and monetary burden with which a major portion of gun owners may not make the effort to comply. This could result in many firearms being “lost”.
Updated 13 May 2009
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