There are many firearms offences in SA (South Australia), some of which carry severe penalties.
To possess, own or use a firearm anywhere in the state, you have to have obtained a licence and your firearm must have been registered. Eligibility for a licence is set out in the Firearms Act 1977 and includes:
- sporting shooters who are members of registered clubs
- recreational shooters with permission from landowners
- people needing a firearm for their work, such as farmers
- security employees and professional sporting shooters
- genuine collectors.
You must be over 18 years old to obtain a licence, or at least 15 years if you are directly involved in farming. You must have the licence with you whenever you have a firearm in your possession. The greatest penalty that can be imposed if you don’t is $5,000.
To obtain a licence, you must be ‘fit and proper’, which means:
- no physical or mental condition that makes it dangerous for you to have firearm(s)
- no convictions for violence in any country anywhere
- no convictions for certain firearms offences in Australia
- you have not been subject to an Australian Domestic Violence or other Intervention Order.
Doctors and firearms clubs must inform the Registrar if they believe you have a physical or mental illness or pose a threat to anyone’s safety. Clubs must expel you if your behaviour threatens anyone’s safety or if a prohibition order relating to firearms applies.
A number of firearms offences in SA relate to registration and storage of firearms.
It’s an offence to possess unregistered firearms. The maximum penalty:
- for a firearm classified as ‘prescribed’, or for a firearm in class C, D or H – $10,000 or 2 years in prison
- otherwise – $5,000 or 1 year in prison.
Firearms must be kept securely. The maximum penalty for failing to do so is $2,500. They must be:
- securely attached to, and locked on, part of a building, or
- locked in a cabinet or safe made of hardwood or steel which is securely attached to a building, or
- kept in a locked steel and concrete room.
Ammunition must be stored separately to any firearms in their own locked container.
Firearms offences in SA relating to possession include simply having a firearm in your home or in a vehicle.
Firearms are grouped into 5 categories according to their dangerousness. An imitation firearm is considered to be a firearm of whatever class it resembles.
A person with an unauthorised firearm listed in class C, D or H faces a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison and/or $35,000 in fines. For other firearms, it is 4 years in prison and/or $20,000 in fines. For a prescribed firearm it is 10 years in prison and/or $50,000 in fines.
It’s an offence to possess silencers, certain parts of firearms, and firearm accessories. The maximum penalty is a $75,000 fine or 15 years in prison if the prohibited accessory is actually fitted to the firearm.
Firearms which are prescribed firearms under the legislation are:
- those which are automatic
- those that have barrel(s) up to 330 mm (not pistols, air rifles, air guns, power heads)
- shotguns with barrel(s) up to 450 mm
- air rifles/air guns with barrel(s) up to 250 mm, an overall length up to 750 mm (not pistols or power heads), and that can be reduced to under 750 mm and be capable of being fired (not pistols)
- those that can fire projectiles containing tear gas, other substances which cause nausea, or poisons
- home-made firearms
- those that look like other objects, and
- certain military firearms.
A serving member of the police force can issue an interim order, which lasts for 28 days, if they hold a reasonable suspicion that you:
- possess a firearm that would likely result in unwarranted danger to anyone or anything, or
- aren’t considered ‘fit and proper’.
The Police Commissioner can issue an order if:
- possessing a firearm would likely result in unwarranted danger to anyone or anything, or
- you aren’t considered ‘fit and proper’, and
- there is public interest in prohibiting you from possessing or owning one.
You can be detained for as long as 2 hours to allow time for the order to be prepared and served. You will be disqualified from obtaining or holding any firearms-related permit or licence, and from having or using firearms, parts of firearms, or ammunition. All firearms must be surrendered and you can’t live in any place at which firearms are stored or used. You must tell each adult at the place where you live that you are subject to a court order prohibiting you from doing so. If you don’t, you can be penalised up to $10,000 or 2 years in prison.
The penalty which will apply for a breach of a prohibition order depends upon the way in which it was breached.
The maximum penalty for acquisition, use or possession is:
- for a firearm, a $75,000 fine or 15 years in prison
- for parts or ammunition, up to $35,000 or 7 years in prison.
For failing to surrender a firearm, parts of firearms, or ammunition, the maximum penalty is:
- for firearms, $10,000 or 2 years in prison,
- for parts or for ammunition, up to $20,000 or 4 years in prison.
Going to a firearms range, club or similar could mean a fine of $10,000 or up to 2 years in prison.
Living at a place where firearms are present, or where there are parts or ammunition, results in a maximum penalty of:
- for firearms, a $50,000 fine or 10 years in prison,
- for parts or ammunition, a fine of up to $20,000 or as much as 4 years in prison.
In relation to firearms offences in SA, the police can:
- demand information from anyone they suspect might possess, or has possessed in the past, a firearm or any ammunition
- demand that weapons are produced for inspection
- seize any firearms that may be unsafe, or that are prohibited or unregistered
- seize weapons if you aren’t considered fit or proper, there is unwarranted danger to anyone or anything, or an order of the court is in place
- hold you while they conduct a search of your person, property and belongings for firearms, mechanisms, fittings, ammunition, and the licences to match
- detain or hold any vehicle (including aircraft or a vessel) or enter a property to undertake a search.
Obstructing or resisting any police officer exercising any such powers carries a maximum penalty of $10,000 or up to 2 years in prison.
It’s an offence in SA to discharge or fire a firearm:
- where you intend to injure, frighten or annoy anyone. The maximum penalty is 8 years in prison.
- if you are being reckless in terms of whether it may injure, frighten or annoy anyone. This could mean a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison.
- intending to damage property, the maximum penalty for which is 5 years in prison.
- if you are being reckless in terms of whether it might damage property. The maximum penalty is 3 years in prison.
This article reflects the state of the law as at 29 April 2016. It is intended to be of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. If you require legal assistance, please telephone 1300 636 846 or request a consultation at gotocourt.com.au.