Criminal Law

Safe Keeping of Firearms

“Firearms offences” can be serious in nature and the term is often associated with serious criminal activity. However, a large number of matters that come before the Court are not serious in nature and committed by ordinary, law abiding citizens.

Typically, many firearms offences are committed by lawful firearm owners and licence holders, particularly for failure to comply with Firearms Laws. A common offence that firearm owners find themselves charged with is "not keep firearm safely". 

The Law

Pursuant to section 39 of the Firearms Act 1996, a person who possesses a firearm must take all reasonable precautions to ensure:

(a) its safe keeping, and
(b) that it is not stolen or lost, and

(c) that it does not come into the possession of a person who is not authorised to possess the firearm.

For holders of firearms licences, there are also additional, separate provisions that deal specifically with the safe storage of firearms.

Penalties

The maximum penalty for "not keep firearm safely" is a $2,200 fine and/or 12 months' imprisonment.

The maximum penalty for "not keep firearm safely" is a $5,500 fine and/or 2 years' imprisonment, if it is established beyond reasonable doubt that the firearm concerned was a prohibited firearm or a pistol.

Commentary

As can be seen, the offence provision that deals with the safe keeping of firearms is a general, catchall provision and can often unfairly see law abiding licence holders charged with a criminal offence.

Unlike offences that deal specifically with the safe storage of firearms, the generality of this particular offence provision means that it comes down to the interpretation of police and, once before a Court, a Magistrate, as to whether an offence has been committed.

It also must be remembered that it is not necessary that a particular event occurs to bring into question whether the law has been complied with. For instance, where a firearm is in fact stolen, it is obvious that this provision will apply and consideration must then be given as to whether all necessary precautions were taken to prevent the theft from happening.

All too often, however, we represent clients in scenarios where nothing has happened to the firearm, yet the police allege that under the circumstances, the person has not taken all reasonable precautions to keep the firearm safe and/or to prevent it from being stolen. This is the part of the provision that places a very heavy onus on firearm owners and later, accused persons, of successfully defending themselves in Court.

It is important to therefore obtain legal advice from criminal lawyers who are experienced with these types of matters. Getting the right legal advice from the outset ensures that the right decisions are made early as to whether there is a likelihood of defending the allegation or, pleading "guilty" early in an effort to persuade the Court to not record a criminal conviction and dismiss the matter pursuant to section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act.

We understand the importance of retaining your firearms licence, especially if you require it for work purposes. We are also mindful of the ramifications of a conviction or even a finding of guilt and are well versed in dealing with the ongoing effects of these types of criminal charges, beyond the criminal proceedings themselves.

If you have been charged with a firearms offence and require the services of an experienced criminal lawyer, Prime Lawyers can help. Contact us to speak to a criminal lawyer at your nearest Prime Lawyers office.

We have offices in Sydney, Parramatta, Chatswood, Sutherland and Wollongong.

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