The Newgreen Report By Chief Inspector Lex Newgreen,
End Firearm Registration. Chief Inspector Newgreen
Herald-Sun 2 November 1990.
COMPULSORY Registration of all Firearms should be Abolished,
a former firearms registrar said yesterday. Chief Inspector Lex Newgreen said it was the owners who should be registered, not their guns. Chief Inspector Newgreen came under intense pressure three years ago when he told the State Government in a report that registering forearms did not prevent or control criminal misuse of guns. Nor did it discourage the irresponsible use of firearms, he said in the report, which had been kept under wraps until The Herald-Sun obtained a copy under the Freedom of Information Act. Shortly after presenting his report to the Government, the man, the man in charge of Victoria’s firearms control suffered an angina attack and was transferred to other duties. Yesterday, Chief Inspector Newgreen stood by his advice to the Government. “My report was not well received because it was contrary to the Government’s policy,” he said. In the report, he described the registration of all firearms as a waste of public money and time. “Probably, and with the best of intentions, it may have been thought that if it were known what firearms each individual owned, some form of control may be exercised. “… and those who were guilty of criminal mis-use could be readily identified. “This is a fallacy, and has been proven not to be the case.” “In my view (firearms registration) does not repress or control the criminal mis-use of, or irresponsible use of, firearms,” he said. Asked yesterday if he regretted taking such a strong stand, Chief Inspector Newgreen said: “How can you ever regret speaking the truth? I told the Government what I believed to be true and correct.”
The NEWGREEN REPORT.
317 Flinders Lane Melbourne, 3000.
26th February 1987
SUBJECT: FIREARMS REGISTRATION SYSTEM C.R.B. File: 39-1-1385/84.
The NEWGREEN REPORT.
317 Flinders Lane
26th February 1987
SUBJECT: FIREARMS REGISTRATION SYSTEM
C.R.B. File: 39-1-1385/84.
1. In February 1984, legislative changes came into effect which
required all firearms owners in the State of Victoria to register the
firearms held in their possession, unless exempted from that
requirement by Section 46(4) of the Firearms Act.
2. To implement and complete the process, because of licence
“rollover”, a time span of three years was required – (1.2.84 to
(a) On the renewal of a shooter’s licence between the above dates
the firearms would be registered ;
(b) Previously unregistered firearms sold off, and distributed
into the community would be registered ; and
(c) Changes of ownership between shooters and dealers would be
subject to registration update (disposal/acquisition).
3. By the 31st January, 1987, in theory, all firearms that required
registration in the State of Victoria should be registered.
REASONS FOR REGISTRATION
4. Before reporting on the current status of registration within this
State, it is important to establish :
(a) The circumstances under which registration was introduced
(b) What were its objectives and aims.
5. Obviously, unless the objective of the exercise is determined the
results have little or no meaning. To look at this exercise in a
logical and realistic way, it is of paramount importance that we
establish where we are, and in which direction we wish to go. We must
also consider as to whether or not the programme should continue as it
is, be modified, or be abolished.
6. In 1979, Delegates of the Australian Police Federation resolved
that the spread of firearms within the community should be contained,
and to achieve its aims, it was resolved :-
(a) That no person should be permitted to have more than three
firearms, without having to “show cause” as to why he should have
more ; and
(b) All firearms should be registered, and records computerized to
assist in effective control and combatting crime.
It was further agreed that the respective “Associations” lobby their
State Government opposition parties to adopt, and put into effect those
7. It would appear that the Victorian Labour Party not only adopted
those resolutions, but certain elements within the party were of the
view that firearms ownership be reduced to one, before having to show
8. The Firearms Traders Association, several large Firearms Companies,
the Shooting Sports Council, and others within the “Shooting
Fraternity” then actively lobbied against the opposition (then Labour
Party), as they considered the proposal was in infringement of their
9. In any event, registration went ahead, but, not in the proposed
form. All firearms held by shooters were to be registered with no
restriction as to the number of firearms owned.
10. It seems that the original aims and objectives were side-stepped,
and I find it difficult to reconcile as to what was sought to be
achieved by the current concept of “registration”. It seems just to be
an elaborate system of arithmetic with no tangible aim. Probably, and
with the best of intentions, it may have been thought, that if it were
known what firearms each individual in Victoria owned, some form of
control may be exercised, and those who were guilty of criminal misuse
could be readily identified. This is a fallacy, and has been proven
not to be the case.
IMPLEMENTATION OF REGISTRATION
11. From the beginning of the Registration programme, problems
developed, primarily brought about by a huge influx of work, without
sufficient staff to cope with the demand. This was further compounded
by the failure to act quickly to rectify a situation that was reported
on, and should have been forseen. Continual embarrassment was caused,
and the Registry and Government were subject to much criticism.
12. It is charitab1e to say, that from the outset, the expedient
recording of data, and issue of certificates was a disaster. This to a
very large extent has now been overcome, but many difficulties still
beset us. Primarily, caused by the processes used and an outmoded and
absolutely unsatisfactory computer programme.
13. Early in 1986, discussions were held with representatives of the
Government Computing Service, as to the feasibility of completely
restructuring our computer programme with a view to accommodating the
Registry’s needs. This would have been a time consuming and expensive
task. In view of the fact that Registry records were to go “on line”
in the “not too distant future” the proposal was not further
14. The Computer Systems Division is presently investigating the
Registry’s computer needs, and our methods and workflow practises are
being examined to establish a computerized integrated system.
15. The number of shooter’s licences issued fluctuate on a monthly
basis. this being brought about by the issue of new licenses, and the
expiry of existing licenses which are not renewed. Over a six month
period between August of 1986 and the end of January 1987, the average
number of shooters’ licences held in the State was 264,037.
16. An examination of registration applications tends to indicate that
each licensed shooter on average holds approximately 2.8 firearms.
This appears to be consistent with projections in other States, and
when one considers the fact that many shooters may have a shotgun, and
either a .22 calibre or high powered rifle, together with an air rifle,
the forecast is probably reasonably accurate. Furthermore, some
licensed shooters may not have any firearms, and others have well in
excess of three, and in some cases hundreds.
17. Given these statistics one can assume that at an absolute
minimum, in the State of Victoria, there is in the order of 739,303
longarms dispersed within the community.
DATE GUNS HELD GUNS REGISTERED %
17. 7.86. 386,153 52.2
1. 8.86. 391,773 52.9
2. 9.86. 396,553 53.6
2.10.86. 406,820 55.0
5.11.86 739,303 414,832 56.1
3.12.86 420,856 56.9
6. 1.87. 424,662 57.4
12. 2.87. 435,337 58.9
The above mentioned data indicates that a small percentage increase in
registration, and at the conclusion of the programme only 58.9% of
Victorians had registered firearms.
Average number of licensed
shooters approximately 264,037
Guns registered on Master
File as at 12.2.87. 435,337
Shooter’s Licences x 2.8
= estimated guns in community 739,303
Number of guns registered 435,337 58.9%
Number of guns unregistered 303 ,966 41.1%
18. One can therefore conclude that 41.1% of firearms held in the
community are not being registered. Public disobedience or ignorance
of the law is by no means a small percentage. To absolutely establish
as to who is not registering firearms is not possible, as all licensed
shooters are not the owners of firearms, and some shooters may only
register some of the guns held in their possession, others may not
register guns at all.
19. Putting aside public resistance, one of the worst problems
encountered is the ability to store accurate data which can be readily
retrieved. The forms used for the purpose of registration are designed
in such a way that with the exception of a name, in some cases the
address, and the shooter’s licence number, none of the information
provided by the gun owner can be readily checked. In many cases, it
has been established that what purports to be firearm serial numbers
are in fact model numbers. Therefore, the Registry is not in a
position to identify what particular firearm belongs to the licensee.
We can say that a certain person owns a particular model of firearm,
but, the actual firearm itself cannot be identified. Without
physically inspecting the firearm, and cross checking against the
registration form, I doubt if the problem could be overcome. In any
case, it is at times very hard to distinguish between a serial number
and a model number when one considers the types of guns available. If
the acquirer does not remit the Disposal Notice, records show, and will
continue to show the firearms as still being registered in the Vendor’s
name, unless something occurs to cause a check to be made. There are
many thousands of entries which indicate a large number of licensees
have possessed the same firearm.
20. Other considerations to be taken into present system are :-
(a) There is no way of ensuring that firearms purchased
interstate are being registered ;
(b) There is no way to ensure that firearms disposed of
interstate are deleted from records, if indeed they were
registered in the first place ;
(c) It cannot be established if a licence holder has registered
all firearms in his possession ;
(d) Firearms can be registered under a number of licences. The
programme does not facilitate that type of check. Therefore,
duplication can, and does occur ;
(e) If a person has registered firearms in his name and permits
his shooters licence to expire, and then takes out another
shooter’s licence, he is not against required to register his
firearm. Section 22(2F) of the Act cannot be complied with as
the computer programme is only designed to accept data from a
licensee. Forms that do not show a shooter’s licence number will
be rejected. Many firearms are shown to be still registered
under expired licences.
21. Applicants omit to place the required information on application
forms, or endorse incorrect information, for example :
(a) In correct shooter’s licence details ;
(b) They have no shooter’s licence, therefore, should not have
firearms in their possession ;
(c) Endeavour to register firearms on a Junior Permit ;
(d) Still hold “Farm Permits” ;
(e) Have deficient categories on shooter’s licence. “A” “B”
shooters wanting to register “C” Class firearms ;
(f) Fail to forward the appropriate fee, which in many cases
causes time consuming and very expensive follow-up action to
(g) overpay the required fee, therefore, monies must be paid
into the Suspense Account, and re-imbursement made ;
(h) Incorrect spelling or illegible writing ;
(i) Attempting to register firearms on an annual basis ;
(j) Incorrect calibres.
22. The examples cited are to list, but a few of the problems
encountered, which are extremely time consuming and place additional
demands on the staff.
23. It is estimated that each gun costs approximately $4.00 to go
through the registration process, and that cost would almost double
dependent upon the action taken to rectify the error. If external
inquiries are needed utilizing the services of local Police, such costs
could rise by up to 1000% once again to retrieve a dollar. By law one
is placed in a “catch 22” situation. You know the exercise is not cost
effective, but, registration cannot be effected unless the fee required
by law is paid.
24. The registration programme drastically needs a complete overhaul
and update. Both the process and computer programme should be
re-evaluated. However, to implement the required changes is costly,
and should not be attempted until such time as an indication or
response is given by the Government, as to whether or not
“Registration” will be abolished or continued.
25. Having worked with registration since the latter stage of 1984, I
have known full well that a report on firearms registration would be
required at the conclusion of the current programme, and it has not
been taken lightly. Previously experience in New Zealand and South
Australia, and now indeed in the State of Victoria, indicates that
firearms registration in the way in which it is implemented is costly,
ineffective, and achieves little. In my view, does it not repress or
control the criminal misuse of, or irresponsible use of firearms?
26. IF the people of Victoria or the Government require registration
to continue in an effective way, which will be used to control and
contain firearms ownership, I would suggest steps should be taken to :-
(a) Re-assess their aims and objectives, and make a conscious
decision as to whether the registration process will meet those
aims : if not seek alternatives ;
(b) IF the answer is affirmative, repressive always would have to
be enacted on the “show cause” basis, or a labour intensive
system adopted which would rely heavily upon Police time and
resources to make registration more effective, and to provide
some degree of accuracy.
27. If one is to achieve a proper balance, I am of the opinion that
the Firearms Act should –
(a) Repress the criminal and irresponsible use of firearms ;
(b) Look after the public interest ; and
(c) Not place harsh restrictions on responsible and mature
sports shooters, whilst at the same time educating the public,
particularly Juniors, in the safe use and handling of firearms.
I do not believe registration is the answer to the problem.
28. I would therefore recommend that Firearms Registration be
forthwith abolished, and together with the Firearms Consultative
Committee a far reaching, effective, and proper system of education be
introduced, as a pre-requisite to the obtaining of a shooter’s
29. In conjunction with education, the penalties for those who breach
the law should be heavily increased.
30. The Governmental Review Committee is currently undertaking an
examination of the “ACT”, and the Education and Training Sub-Committee
of the Firearms Consultative Committee is examining the best means of
achieving firearms education.
31. If my proposal is considered a proper and viable alternative, I
believe it could be implemented in a reasonable time span, would be
less costly, and achieve far more in every way, than the concept of
registration. Whatsmore, it would probably be more acceptable to the
Shooting Fraternity, and just as acceptable to the Victorian public.
In that way, we would have public/shooter acceptance, and not
32. Attached at Appendix ‘A’ is a research paper compiled by Senior
Sergeant WATERMAN on Firearms Registration.
33. I do not propose to comment on that paper as it is appropriate
that the reader draw their own conclusions.
A. NEWGREEN/Chief Inspector,
Registrar of Firearms.
INSPECTORS, COURSE NO. 51 – 1986
For an official copy of this document, contact:
David Foley, Superintendent, Freedom of Information Officer
Freedom of Information Unit
P.O. Box 415
Phone: (61 3) 9247 6801 Fax: (61 3) 9247 5736
RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER
S. W. WATERMAN
SENIOR SERGEANT 15548
VICTORIA POLICE COLLEGE
INSPECTORS’ COURSE NO. 51 – 1986
RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER
FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY
Firearms have been present in our community since Australia was
founded in 1788. In chose early days settlers relied upon the firearm
to defend themselves and their families from their enemies and to
provide a means of procuring sustenance for the family table.
Neither of those requisites for ownership of a firearm exist in
today’s society, however the number of firearms present in our
community is estimated at a staggering one million, almost all of
which are owned and used for sporting purposes. In recent times the
proliferation of firearms, as cause to Governments to impose stricter
ownership controls and stricter means of usage. Registration is one
such measure and has been adopted universally by Democratically
elected Governments such as those in the Australian States, New
Zealand and Great Britain.
The mandatory registration of firearms has been instituted in Victoria
since 1983, in the interim period of 3 years other Australian States
and overseas countries have seen fit to abandon the scheme and replace
it with stricter forms of firearms ownership. With these recent
events in. mind the topic of firearms registration and control of
firearms legislation by police has been critically examined.
Legislation of Australian States, New Zealand and Great Britain has
been reviewed and interviews conducted with members of the legal
service, Police firearms authorities and officials from the sports
shooting fraternities with the view of obtaining a global view of
The conclusions are quite apparent and the recommendations sound-
There can be no doubt that firearm registration is ineffective and
that education of the firearm user of paramount importance. In
conclusion there is also little doubt that the Police as a body are
the most suitable agency to supervise firearms legislation and
– 1 –
INSPECTORS, COURSE NO. 51 – 1986
RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER
FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Item Page Paragraph
History of Victorian Firearms Control 3 – 9
Initial Legislation 3 6 – 7
First Firearms Act 3 8 – 9
Objectives of Current Firearms Act 3 10
Shooters Licence 4 11 – 12
Licensing Procedures 4 13
Licence Fee and Proviso’s 5 14
Renewal of Shooters Licence Fee 5 15
Cancellation of Shooters Licence 5 16 – 17
Firearm Registration 5 18 – 20
Contributors & Resistance to Legislation 6 21 – 24
Implementation to Registration 7 25 – 26
Notice of Disposal 7 27 – 78
Airguns and Air rifles 8 29 – 31
Registration of Pistols 9 32 – 35
New South Wales Licensing and Registration 9 11
Licensing of Firearms 9 36 – 37
Police Discretion 10 38
Revocation 10 39
Registration 10 40 – 41
Comment 11 42
Queensland Legislation 11 – 12
No Existing Licensing Scheme 11 43
Reason Why No Gun Controls 11 44
Comment 12 45
– i –
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Item Page Paragraph
South Australian Legislation 12 – 14
Licensing 12 46 – 48
Registration 13 49
Revocation of Licence 13 50
Firearms Consultative Committee 13 51
Comment 14 51
Northern Territory Legislation 14 – 15
Licensing 14 52
Registration 15 56
Comment 15 57
West. Australian Legislation 15 – 16
Licensing Procedure 15 58 – 59
Registration 16 60 – 62
Comment 16 63
Tasmania Legislation 16 – 17
Firearms Control 16 64 – 65
A.C.T. Legislation 17 – 18
Firearms Legislation 17 66
Application for Firearm Licence 17 67
Registration 17 68
United Kingdom Legislation 13 – 20
Firearm Laws 15 69 – 70
Police Involvement 15 71 – 74
Effectiveness of Policy 19 75 – 78
Renewal of Registration 20 79
New Zealand Registration 20 – 23
Firearm Registration 21 80 – 83
Board of Enquiry 21 84 – 85
Licensing Procedures for Firearm Owners 22 86
Tables of Comparisons 23 87
Interviews and Opinions 23
Sports Shooting Association 23 88
Government Statute Draughtsman 24 89
– ii –
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Item Page Paragraph
Conclusions 25 – 28
Areas Reviewed 25 90 – 91
Number of Firearms in Victoria 26 92 – 94
Registration of Firearms “Is it a Police 27 95
Registrar 27 96
Police Role 27 97 – 98
Can the Task of Registration be effectively 27 99 – 100
Registration and Administration –
Police Role 2,3 101 – 106
Lack of Firearms Safety Tests 29 107
Recommendations 29 – 30
Reposed Amendment 29 108
Political Motives 30 109
Education 30 110
Police Control 30 111
Bibliography 31 – 32
Appendix A 33 – 38
B 39 – 42
D 44 – 49
F Old Police Perspective 51
– iii –
INSPECTORS’ COURSE NO. 51 – 1986
RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER
FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY?
Item Page Paragraph
Abandoned Registration – South Australia 14 51
A.C.T. Legislation – 17 66 – 68
– Application for Firearm Licence 17 67
Airguns and Air Rifles – Definition 8 29 – 30
– South Australia 12 47
– Victoria 8 29 – 30
Arms Act – New Zealand 20 80
Australian Firearms Law Institute 11 41
Australian Police Federation 6 21
Brower, Robert 8 31
Bureau of Statistics – Australia 2 1
Cancellation of Shooters Licence – Victoria 5 18
Civillian Administration – Victoria 25 89
Civil liberties invasion – Victoria 24 88
Clarke, Edward 26 92
Conclusions 25 – 29 90 – 107
Cost-effectiveness – Dollars 25 89
– Objective 25 89
Criminal Element 9 35
Criminal Records – United Kingdom 17 72
– New Zealand 21 82
Emmersley, Robert 24 89
Enquiry – New Zealand 21 83 – 85
Fine, David J. 13 51
Firearms – Australia 2 1
– Consultative Committee – South Au. 13 51
– Consultative Committee – Victoria 9 31
Firearms Education 30 110
Firearms – Registration – Victoria 3 16
– New South Wales 10 40 – 41
– South Australia 13 49
– Queensland 11 49
– iv –
Item Page Paragraph
Firearms Registration – Tasmania 16 64
– A.C.T. 17 68
– United Kingdom 19 71
– New-Zealand 20 80
– Northern Territory 15 56
– West Australia 16 60 – 62
Firearms Traders Association – Victoria 6 23
Game Act Victoria 3 7
Government Statute Draughtsman 24 88
Greenwood, Colin 27 89
Gun Dealer Victoria 7 25 – 27
Homicides – Northern Territory 15 57
Humane Killing Devices 4 11
Illegal Firearms 9 31
Ill Feeling – Firearms Inspector 23 88
Illegal Firearm 9 31
Labour Government – Left Wing 23 88
– Victoria 5 18
Licensing Procedures – A.C.T 17 66 – 68
– New South Wales 9 36
– Northern Territory 14 52
– New Zealand 72 86
– Queensland 11 43 – 44
– South Australia 12 46
– Tasmania 16 64
– Victoria 4 13
– United Kingdom 19 73 – 74
– West Australia 15 59
Licence Fee – Victoria 5 14
” ” 5 19
” ” 25 89
New South Wales Legislation 9 35 – 39
New Zealand – Board of Enquiry 21 84 – 85
– Legislation 23 80 – 87
– Mountain Safety Council 22 86 – 87
Non Registration – Victoria 26 92
Notice of Acquisition – Victoria 8 28
Notice of Sale – Victoria 8 28
Northern Territory – Legislation 14 52 – 57
Number of Firearms allowed – Victoria 26 92
Objectives of Act – Victoria 4 10
– v –
Item Page Paragraph
Pea Rifle and Saloon Gun Act 3 7
Pistols – Victoria 9 33 – 35
Police control of Act – A.C-T. 17 66
– New South Wales 11 42
– Northern Territory 14 52
– New Zealand 21 81 – 83
– Queensland 12 45
– South Australia 12 46
– Tasmania 16 64 – 65
– Victoria 3 14
– United Kingdom 18 71
– West Australia 15 59
Police Prosecutions – Victoria 25 89
Police Role 26 97 – 98
Politics 29 100
Queensland Government 12 45
Queensland Legislation 11 43 – 45
Registrar – Firearms – A.C.T. 17 67
– Victoria 9 32
Rippon. Tom 6 19
Registration of Firearms – A.C.T. 17 76 – 77
– New South Wales 11 42
– Northern Territory 15 56
– New Zealand 21 81 – 83
– Queensland 11 44
– South Australia 13 49
– Tasmania 16 64 – 65
– Victoria 9 32
– United Kingdom 18 71
– West Australia 16 60
Safety Tests – lack of 29 107
– New Zealand 22 86
– Recommended 30 110
Shark gun – power heads 4 11
Shooting – Sports Council of Victoria 8 31
Shot guns – United Kingdom 17 70
South Australian Legislation 12 46 – 51
Survey – Firearms 13 48
Sports Shooting Association 23 88
Tasmanian Legislation 16 64 – 66
Surveys 17 65- vi –
Item Page Paragraph
United Kingdom – Applications 19 73 – 74
– Fees 24 88
– Legislation 18 – 20 69 – 79
Victorian Firearms Act – First 3 8 – 9
Victorian Voters 6 23 – 24
Wales – Firearms Numbers 29 76
West Australia Legislation 15 58 – 63
– vii –
OFFICERS’ COURSE NO. 51 – 1986
RESEARCH LECTURE PAPER
FIREARMS – IS IT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY?
Firearms in the Community
1. In the last official survey in 1975 carried out by the Bureau of
Australian Statistics (1) there were estimated to be 1,354,700
firearms in Australia and 338,200 in Victoria. (See Appendix “A”).
2. There has been no survey conducted since 1975 but the latest
estimates of firearms in Victoria by the Firearms Registry in 1982
suggests one million, a dramatic rise in eleven years. (2).
3. Up until April 1986 there was 260,000 licensed shooters’ or gun
owners’ in Victoria. A further 20,000 persons were anticipated to
become licensed by June 1986. The current estimates put the number of
firearms per licensed persons at 2.8 firearms. In interpreting those
figures and the inclusion of airguns and rifles then the figure of
1,000,000 firearms becomes realistic. (3)
Purpose for this Paper
4. It is my intention in this paper co critically examine some
aspects of firearms registration and the control in licensing the
persons to use these firearms. More importantly, should it be a
Police responsibility and can this be effectively carried out and
(1) General Social Survey. Australian Bureau of Statistics..
(2) Interview with the Registrar of Firearms for the State of
Victoria Chief Inspector B. Fennessy on April 5th, 1986.
(3) Interview with Chief Inspector Fennessy.
– 2 –
5. In drawing my conclusion I have made use of my research both in
Victoria, other Australian States and overseas in respect to firearm
History of Victorian Firearms Control
6. Initial Legislation. The first recorded Victorian legislation
to control the use and possession of firearms was The Pea Rifle and
Saloon Gun Act proclaimed on November 25th. 1912. (See Appendix “B”).
In essence the Act was introduced in order to set the legal minimum
age for ownership of Pea rifles and Saloon guns, legislation was also
made to create the offences of supplying pea rifles, saloon guns and
ammunition to persons under 18 years of age. It is interesting to
note that at this time firearm control was made a police
responsibility in the organization and control of the Act.
7. The Game Act (now the Wildlife Act) was also responsible for
the prohibition of shooting certain species of animals and for setting
bag limits for game and controlling the type of firearms used for
8. First Firearms Act. In 1922 the first Victorian firearms Act
was proclaimed and closely followed the workings of the English Act
that had beer& proclaimed two years earlier. Apart from controlling
@un dealers it also made police permission necessary to Purchase or
possess a concealable firearm (pistol).
9. From 1953 to 1972 the Act extended the provision to include
rifles other than pea rifles. This provision was introduced to try to
keep control over high powered rifles and the people who used them.
Members of the shooting fraternity expressed considerable
dissatisfaction with these provisions and in 1972, following several
reports of the Statute Law Revision Committee of the 1960’s, the then
Liberal Government repealed the legislation and introduced the
Shooters Licence, the system that we now operate under.
10. Objectives of Current Firearms Act. The present day Firearms
Act has now consolidated all firearms offences and they are now
included in the one Act. The Act has been proclaimed to:
(a) Control firearm sales and their safe use.
(b) Allow those who participate in firearms sport-to do SC,
in a controlled manner.
(c) support the security industry.
(d) Control and regulate the safe use and presence of
firearms in the community.
– 3 –
11. Shooters Licence. From 1972 to 1983 the only firearms required
to be registered related to pistols and instruments like humane
killing devices shark gun power heads and similarly declared weapons.
12. During this period legislation was enacted that required all
persons who were to purchase, carry, possess or use certain firearms
to hold a shooters licence, permit or other authority. This
legislation was to cover, rifles, shotguns etc.
“Subject to the provisions of this Act no person shall
purchase, possess, carry or use a firearm of a type in any
category referred to in sub-section (4) unless he holds a
shooters licence, permit or other authority granted under
parc authorizing him to purchase, possess, carry or use such
13. Licensing Procedures. Any persons resident in the State of
Victoria who requires a shooters licence has only to go to his local
Police Station, where he will be interviewed by a Policeman.
Providing that he can produce sufficient identification and he can
satisfy the policeman that he is:-
(a) of good character.
(b) over 18 years of age.
(c) has good reason to possess a firearm.
(d) good knowledge of firearm safety procedures and law.
(e) will ensure proper storage of firearms when not in use.
(f) is not insane, of sober habit and otherwise a person fit
to be trusted to use the firearm properly.
Then after a cooling off period of 3 weeks be issued with a
Shooters Licence vide Section 4 of sub-section 22AA of the Firearms
(4) (a) Every shooters-licence shall be in the prescribed
form and shall authorize the holder –
(i) to purchase, possess, carry and use any
firearm (not being a pistol) of any one
or more of the following categories specified
in the licence:-
A – Shot gun.
B – Pea rifle, air gun, air rifle.
C – Any other rifle. (5)
(4) Firearms Acc 1958. No. 6251. Section 2TAA (1).
(5) Firearms Act 1958. No. 6251. Section 22AA (4) (a).
– 4 –
14. Licence Fee & Proviso’s. At present the annual fee for a
shooters licence is $10.00 per year- The applicant may select either
an annual licence or a three year licence. The Government has also
made provision for exemptions from payment for primary producers and
their employees. Pensioners may also obtain licences at a reduced
15. Renewal of Shooters & Licence Fee. Upon the expiration of the
shooters licence the holder must decide if he wishes to renew the
licence or not. Provided that he is still a suitable person he may
pay his renewal fee at his local bank. The police do not’ play any
role in the renewal process and fee collection.
16. Cancellation of Shooters Licence. The Registrar may cancel any
shooters licence it in his opinion the holder of a licence:-
(a) Has proved to be irresponsible for the handling, care and
storage of the firearm when nor in use.
(b) Is shown not to be of good character.
(c) Has wilfully made a false statement on his application form
for a shooters licence.
(d) Has been convicted in Australia of an offence which
renders him as an unsuitable person to hold a licence.
17. The Registrar of the firearms may also apply to the Firearms
Consultative Committee for cancellation of a shooters licence if the
licensee is a person of intemperate habits or insane or otherwise
unfitted to be entrusted with the care and use of firearms.
18. Reviewing of the Legislation. As previously mentioned in
paragraph 9 a form of firearm registration existed in Victoria between
1953 and 1972. However in 1983 the Labour Government of Victoria
introduced as legislation the mandatory registering of all firearms
within Victoria. The registration was to be phased in over a period
of 4 years by each licensed shooter submitting derails of his or her
firearms when they renewed their shooters licences. At the same time
Licensed Gun Dealers were to also submit details of firearms sales as
they were made, buyers and sellers of firearms were also to submit the
relevant details to the Firearms Registrar. The purpose of this
exercise was to have on record by February 1987, every firearm in the
State of Victoria.
19. A fee of $1.00 per firearm was set as the total registration
amount. The firearm was to be registered on a once only basis
provided that it was not re-sold. The Victoria Police were made the
organizing body and a new position entitled ‘Registrar of Firearms’
– 5 –
20. Prior to the implementing of firearms registration the various
factions of the shooting fraternity protested against registration in
a vigourous manner. To appreciate the situation in Victoria it is
necessary to examine the events leading up to registration.
21. Contributers & Resistance to Legislation Changes. In 1979,
Delegates of the Australian Police Federation met in Darwin to discuss
points of mutual interest. Inspector T. Rippon the Secretary of the
Victoria Police Association was present at the meeting and in an
interview with him on April 7th, 1986 he related the following
(a) Delegates from all States of Australia adopted the view
that the spread of firearms throughout. the community
should be contained.
(b) That no one person should be permitted to possess more
than three firearms without having to show cause why they
should have another.
(c) That all firearms should be registered and those records
computerised for the use of police in combatting crime. (6)
(d) That the Delegates from each Australian State should
adopt this policy as the official Police Federation
policy and that their respective associations would lobby
their state government opposition parties to adopt their
22. Inspector Rippon states that in 1981 the Labour Party were in
opposition and that they adopted the majority of the recommendations
made by the Police Association. They did however propose the number
of firearms allowable to each person before having to show cause, to
23. Upon this formula becoming public the Firearms Traders
Association and several large firearms companies such as Remington and
Winchester petitioned the 380,000 licensed shooters in Victoria
recommending co them not to vote Labour as registration was an
invasion of their privacy and the restriction in the number of
firearms permitted an infringement on their rights. (The notice
distributed is attached at Appendix “C”).
24. In addition members of the various shooting associations
circulated papers (Appendix “D” also see interviews in paragraph’s 88
and 89) advocating none of their members vote Labour at the
forthcoming elections. The Labour party realised that they could
jeopardise those 380,000 voters and thus modified their stance to the
present situation by not imposing a limit.
(6) Interview wich Inspector T. Rippon, Secretary of The Victoria
Police Association, Melbourne on March 30th, 1986.
– 6 –
Implementation of Registration.
25. on November 29th, 1983 the laws applicable to registration of
firearms came into operation under Section 22AA of the Firearms Act.
The Sub-sections are as follows:-
” (11) Every person who is the holder of a shooters licence at
the commencement of Section 11 of the Firearms (Amendment)
Act 1983 shall when he next applies for renewal of his
licence after the said commencement notify the registrar in
writing the particulars as prescribed of all firearms then
in his possession and shall forward with the notification a
fee of $1 for each of those firearms.
(12) When issuing or renewing a shooters licence the registrar
shall record upon the licence particulars of all firearms in
the possession of the holder of the licence and in
circumstances where such recording is not practicable, may
issue a certificate of registration in respect of chose
(13) The holder of a shooters licence who acquires a firearm
as a beneficiary under a will shall within 14 days of
acquiring the firearm complete and forward to the Registrar
a Notice of Acquisition of the firearm in the prescribed
26. The above provisions relate to people already in possession of
firearms at the time of the commencement of the Registration period.
In addition Legislative provision was made for people who buy and
sell firearms other than antiques, firearms or pistols. Any person
who sells a firearm to:-
(a) Any person required by this Act to have firearms in his
possession registered; or
(b) A licensed gun dealer –
shall at the time of the sale deliver to the purchaser a completed
Notice of Disposal in the prescribed form together with the current
Registration of the firearm (if any). (8)
Notice of Disposal
27. Legislation has also been made to cover the situation whereby
the purchaser is not required to have the firearm registered, i.e. an
(7) Ibid., Section 22AA (11) (12) (13).
(8) Ibid., Section 22AA (9).
– 7 –
“Any person who sells a registered firearm, not being a pistol
or antique firearm to any person not required by this Act to
have firearms in his possession registered (other than a
licensed gun dealer) shall within 14 days of the sale deliver
or cause to be delivered to the Registrar a completed Notice of
Disposal in the prescribed form together with the current
certificate of registration of the firearm”. (9)
28. Just as the seller has an obligation to notify the Registrar so
does the purchaser:-
“Within fourteen days of the sale of a firearm, not being a
pistol or antique firearm, the purchaser of the firearm, if
required by this Act co have firearms in his possession
registered or if a licensed gun dealer shall send or deliver
to the Registrar:-
(a) A completed Notice of Aquisition in the prescribed form;
(b) The Notice of Disposal and Certificate of Registration
(if any) delivered to him under sub-section (2B); and
(c) A fee of $1.00”. (10)
Airguns and Air Rifles
29. Air guns and Air Rifles are now included in the definition of
firearm. Formerly this was not the case however in an effort co
create uniformity throughout Australia almost all states amended their
legislation to include air guns and air rifles as firearms. Tasmania
was the only state not to amend their legislation.
30. It is however difficult to make any sort of estimate as to how
many air guns and air rifles there are in the community as in the past
there was little or no control over ownership. Formerly the only forms
of control have been in relation to trespass to farms and young
persons seeking an authority from the Officer In Charge of the local
police station granting him permission to carry and use such weapons.
31. The inclusion of air guns and-air rifles in the definition of
‘firearm’ has introduced a whole new range of shooters licence
applicants. There is no doubt that there are significant numbers of
such firearms in the community. In an interview with Robert Brewer,
the Secretary of Shooting Sports Council of Victoria, he stated chat
he had inspected the importation figures over the past several years
and he had no doubt that there was a minimum of 200,000 air guns and
air rifles in the community. (11)
(9) ibid., Section 22AA (2C).
(10) Ibid., Section 22AA (2D).
(11) Interview with Robert Brewer, Secretary of the Victorian
Shooters Sports Council.
– 8 –
Registration of Pistols
32. One of the major duties of the Registrar of Firearms in Victoria
is the issue of pistol licences to approved applicants. Most licences
for pistols in Victoria relate to members of sporting or shooting
clubs and the Security industry. in the past employee’s of security
companies were personally licensed and owned their own handguns, this
created problems particularly after the employee had finished work.
The situation has now been altered and the company holds the pistol
licence, the employee receives his firearm at the start of work and
hands it in at the completion of his shift.
33. At the completion of 1985 there were 12,028 pistols and handguns
in the State of Victoria and 14,574 licences to carry these firearms.
(Appendix E) A thorough screening is given to all applicants for
licences and this assists to eliminate those that are considered
unsuitable to hold a pistol licence.
34. The Registrar has the power to cancel pistol licences for
persons no longer found to be suitable, this in fact happens from time
to time. The licence holder has a right of appeal to the Firearms
Consultative Committee, upon receiving an adverse decision he also has
the right to appeal to a magistrates Court.
35. This particular area of firearms control is well managed and the
incidence of offences detected by licensed pistol owners is minimal.
Whilst it must be accepted that there will allways be illicit handguns
and pistols in the hands of criminals, the control of legal pistols
etc. and the licensing of those individuals is an excellent example of
good management by Police Administration.
“If the legal distribution of firearms were restricted, the
illegal sources of supply – theft, smuggling and illegal
manufacture – would greatly expand to fill this gap. The cold
hard fact remains – the criminal element has allways found and
will continue to find, a way to obtain an illegal firearm”.(12)
NEW SOUTH WALES LICENSING AND REGISTRATION PROCEDURE
Licensing of Firearms
36. It is illegal in New South wales for a person to possess a rifle
or shotgun unless he has a current shooter’s licence. Applications
for shooter’s licence can only be lodged at a Police Station or the
Police Firearms Registry. It is the practise of the Police to issue
the shooter’s licence immediately if the application lodged by the
applicant does not disclose any adverse information and the applicant
is over the age of 18 years. Proof of age is required.
(12) The Police Chief, March 1985. Article by Gregor J. Sambor,
‘Tracing Firearms’. p.75.
– 9 –
37. The applicant may be required to undertake a written or oral
test chat relates to safety procedures appropriate to the class of
firearm he desires.
38. The Commissioner of New South Wales Police has vested in him
unlimited discretion to grant or refuse shooter’s licences. It also
enjoins him not to licence persons unless they are:-
(a) Of good character and repute.
(b) Fit and proper to possess firearms.
39. The Commissioner and the Registrar have the power to revoke a
shooters licence in New South Wales but only on certain conditions,
(a) Applicant made false statements on his application when
applying for a shooters licence.
(b) Where he is convicted in New South Wales or elsewhere of a
(c) Where the holder of a licence can no longer afford the licensed
firearms adequate control or where he is proved to be negligent
and careless in the use of a firearm.
Upon receipt of notice that his licence is revoked the applicant is to
surrender same to the Police. (13)
Registration of Firearms
40. A recent amendment to the Firearms Act has now included
mandatory firearm registration. Initially the N.S.W. Government went
against registration preferring to make the penalties for firearms
offences and crimes involving firearms much heavier than they had
been. The incidence of armed robberies and other firearm related
crime has now been instrumental in their change of direction. In
1983, there were over 1,000 armed robberies alone. (14)
(13) Firearms Laws in Australia. J. David Fine. CCH Australia
Limited, Sydney, N.S.W. p.4.
(14) N.S.W. Armed Robbery Squad 1983 statistics.
– 10 –
41. At present Registration is accomplished in two ways. Rifles
and shotguns owned before the introduction of registration must be
registered with the Police and the fee paid then. Only holders of
current shooters licences are permitted to register long guns and
Police have the power to demand inspection of the firearm before
registration. Long guns acquired after the start of the registration
scheme will now be registered automatically by the police as a permit
is now required to purchase a particular firearm before the actual
purchase takes place. There is no limit on the number of firearms
one may own.
42. N.S.W. legislation is now very similar to Victorian
legislation with the added rule that one must obtain a permit to
purchase a long gun before he can actually buy the firearm. The
Police as in Victoria control the issue of shooters licences and
registration of the firearms.
No Existing Licensing Scheme
43. Unless one comes within a class of prevented or prohibited
persons, anyone can own, use, acquire and dispose of rifles and
shotguns in Queensland without the need for a licence or permit.
Queensland neither licences shooters nor issues licences in respect
of long guns. Pistols are registered and the owners licensed.
Reason Why No Controls
44. Although some members of the community expressed concern at
the lack of firearm legislation, members of the Australian Firearm
Law Institute conducted a comparison test between Queensland, West
Australia and the Northern Territory who have had licensing and
registration procedures dating back to 1950. West Australia was
selected because it has the longest history of restrictive legislation
in Australia. It was found after comparing the three states, two
with severe restrictions on firearms and the other with almost no
restrictions that there was very little difference between them and
that in almost every component Queensland fared slightly better. On
this basis alone it was decided not to introduce licensing shooters
or registration. (15)
(15) Firearms Control. Carl G. Vandal. Australian Firearm Law
Institute 1984, reprint. p.7.
– 11 –
45. The same survey showed that if the Queensland Government were
to introduce licensing of firearm owners and register those firearms
then they would effectively require a further 282 personnel and that
the total cost of implementing such a scheme would be in excess of
six million dollars. The Government felt that to introduce such a
scheme would reduce the effective strength of the Police Force by 6½
per cent. The Government concluded that in Queenslands case it was
not cost effective to introduce restrictive firearms legislation.
See Appendix “F”. (16)
SOUTH AUSTRALIAN LEGISLATION
46. One must have a licence to possess any firearms in South
Australia and that licence must be in respect of the class of firearm
one wishes to possess. The Police are legally responsible to licence
all people who meet the requirement: of the Act. Those requirements
(a) over the age of 15 years.
(b) that he is a fit and proper person to hold a licence.
i.e. no history of mental disorder etc.
47. The applicant is required to pass a written examination in
the rudiments of firearms safety. The licence is only applicable to
the type of firearm:-
Class “A” – air rifle, air gun, .22 calibre rifle.
Class “B” – shot gun.
Class “C” – pistol.
Class “D” – all other firearms except dangerous weapons.
i.e. machine gun, gas pistol etc.”. (17)
(16) ibid., n.16.
(17) The South Australian Firearms Act 1977. Regulation 7.
– 12 –
48. Prior to 1977 there were no firearms legislation controlling
firearm use or possession at all except for pistols. Items like
silencers were legal, in fact one of the influencing reasons for the
decisions by the heads of the Australian Police Federation to seek
uniformity throughout Australia in relation to firearms law was a
liberal interpretation of firearms importing laws taken by several
South Australian Gun Dealers. During a drug raid in 1979 a number of
“UZI” style machine guns were located, no charges could be levelled
at the dealer owing to the looseness of the then firearms law. The
1975 Australian Bureau of Statistics survey found that there were
approximately 120,900 firearms in South Australia. No doubt a
percentage of those firearms are owned or controlled by criminals.
49. Apart from its licensing and owners scheme South Australia
also maintains a distinct scheme of firearms registration. It is an
offence to possess any firearm that has not been registered as soon
as ‘reasonably practicable’ but no more than 14 days after
acquisition of it. Prior to acquiring a firearm the applicant must
have a shooters licence to suit the category of firearm to be
Revocation of Licence
50. Where the police believe that a person is no longer fit and
proper to be licensed they may apply to the Firearms Consultative
Committee to revoke the persons firearms licences. Upon notice of
his licence being revoked a person must hand it in to the police
Firearms Consultative Committee
51. The Firearms Consultative Committee is comprised of a
Chairman, generally an Assistant Commissioner of Police, a lawyer and
a representative of the shooting fraternity. The panel is appointed
annually by the Government. In addition the Chief Commissioner of
Police who by law is also the Firearms Registrar personally passes
judgement on every decision that is adverse against a persons
firearms licence in South Australia. The author of Firearms Laws in
Australia, J. David Fine comments in his book:-
“Whilst this structure may result in the appearance of partiality
towards police decisions which the Committee is charged to
review the author is informed that in 7 years of the Committee’s
operations no complaints have been raised on this ground”. (20)
(18) Australian Bureau of Statistics. op. cit.
(19) Firearm Law in Australia. op. cir., p.49.
(20) Firearm Law in Australia. op. cit., p.48.
– 13 –
51. South Australian Firearms Legislation is similar to Victorian
Legislation in that the police control the legislation and
registration procedures. As mentioned in paragraph 48, prior to 1977
the Firearms laws in South Australia were very loose and permitted
almost unlimited ownership of firearms. The new Act declared in 1977
however rectified this situation. At the time of writing this report
however moves are being made to abandon registration. This will be
discussed later on in the paper.
NORTHERN TERRITORY LEGISLATION
52. The Northern Territory has enjoyed a form of Firearms control
since the early 1950’s. At present the firearms legislation is found
in the Northern Territory Firearms Act, 1979. Licensing of persons
who own firearms and registration of those firearms is employed by
53. A licence will only be issued to an applicant if he is of or
above the age of 18 years and satisfies the Commissioner of the
(a) he is a fit and proper person to possess, a firearm.
(b) that he has an adequate knowledge of firearm safety laws.
(c) that he has not been convicted of a firearm related offence
in the Territory or any other State of Australia.
(d) that he has an adequate knowledge of the Territory Firearm
54. Should he wish to obtain Class C & D licence (pistol and
machine gun type) he must be prepared to show cause. Character
checks are conducted as to the suitability of the applicant.
55. The applicant must undergo a written test and answer nine out
of the ten questions correctly. The licence when issued is issued for
a minimum of three years and is endorsed with the type, calibre and
make and serial number of the firearm.
(21) Firearm Laws in Australia. op. cit., p. 116
– 14 –
56. All firearms must be registered and firearm registration
certificates can only be issued by the police to the owners of
weapons, proof of ownership must be produced at the time of ownership.
One is obliged to register firearms with the police within 14 days of
taking possession of them. The registration is valid until the
firearm is either lost, stolen or sold. Registration will also lapse
if the firearm alters in a manner that affects its safety or
qualification for that particular class.
57. The Northern Territory has one of the oldest firearms control
legislations in Australia. In 1981 it was updated and made to
conform more with the other states of Australia. Interestingly
enough for all its firearm controls it still has largest pro-rata
firearm incidents in Australia. For example in 1981 there were six
homicides by firearms in each million people in Australia, in the
Northern Territory on the same basis there were 49 Homicides per
million people. Similarly in 1981 for each 2,531 guns in the
Territory there was one gun related homicide, throughout Australia
there was one such death for each 28,090 guns.(22)
WEST AUSTRALIAN LEGISLATION
58. In order to own or possess a firearm in West Australia the
applicant must be:-
(a) over 16 years of age and of good character.
(b) possess a good reason for wanting a firearm.
(c) not be unfit to hold a licence. (23)
59. The applicant must take his application form to the Police
Station nearest his home and he must pass a written test on firearms
safety and firearms law. The Police conduct the test and are
responsible for the issue of any licence or refusal to do so. Upon
being refused the applicant may appeal to the local Magistrates
(22) Firearms Control. op. cit., P.9.
(23) West Australian Firearm Act 1973.
– 15 –
60. Registration as it exists in Victoria and other States does
not apply here. On each firearm holders licence is endorsed the make
and calibre of the firearms he owns, this endorsement is made at the
time of the granting of the licence or at a later date when he
purchases the firearm. The applicant cannot purchase or buy that
calibre of firearm unless he has the endorsement on his licence.
Individual serial numbers are not indexed and cross referenced to each
firearm licensee. Police are the sole agency responsible for this
61. There is no restriction on the number of firearms one may have
and upon purchasing a further firearm it is a simple matter to have
ones licence endorsed by the local police.
62. It is illegal to sell a firearm to persons other than a
licensed gun dealer or a person who is licensed to possess that
particular brand and calibre firearm.
63. West Australian firearm laws are generally thought to be the
most stringent in Australia, particularly in relation to licensing of
individuals and control of the type of firearms they can possess.
They do not have firearms registration laws which presently exist in
most States of Australia, nor do they see the need to do so in the
64. The Tasmanian Legislation is directed exclusively at the
ownership and possession of handguns. It does not in any way
restrict or regulate the possession of long arms. Police control the
issuing of licences in relation to pistols and gun dealers, they do
not have any control over long arms at all. In fact a teenager of 16
years or over can buy a long arm of any description without any form
of licensing or instruction of its safe use. It has been publicly
quoted that Tasmania’s gun laws were so lax that mainland criminals
visited the state for express purpose of buying weapons for use in
interstate hold-ups, this being facilitated by the lack of
identification required when purchasing firearms and the lack of
firearm registration. (24)
(24) Melbourne Sun, 8th March, 1979.
– 16 –
65. Surveys conducted in Tasmania in 1977 indicate that certain
areas of the community wanted tighter firearms control. The then
Attorney-General Mr. Miller promised at the time that the Government
would look into the matter. Nothing has been done since that time
except for a general increase in penalty for offences involving
firearms. There are no further facts or figures since 1977 to
indicate any requirement for change to their firearm laws. In a
survey conducted by Professor Harding of the University of New South
Wales 85 per cent of firearm owners in Tasmania gave sport as their
principle reason for owning a firearm. (25)
66. The Firearms Laws in the Australian Capital Territory are
controlled by the Gun Licence Ordinance of 1937. It is an offence to
possess any firearm including an air rifle in the A.C.T. without a
licence to possess one. The ordinance requires that applicants to be
of at Least 16 years of age. There are no other qualifications
required. Any type of firearm other than a pistol may be obtained.
The ordinance does provide however, that no licence can be issued
before the police are made aware of the persons application and no
licence can be issued if the police object.
Applications for Firearm Licence
67. The A.C.T. is unique in that it is the only State or Territory
in Australia that provides for non police control of firearms
ownership. The police have a right of ‘veto’ if the applicant, has a
criminal record or is mentally unsound. All firearms licences in the
A.C.T. are issued for one year and must be then renewed. The
Registrar of gun licences in Canberra is the official Government body
to control firearms and he may if he wishes revoke any persons licence
at any time upon conviction by that person of a criminal offence in
the A.C.T. or elsewhere. (26)
68. Whilst individual registration does not exist as such, a
form of firearm registration exists in that each gun owner must be
licenced and that each licence entitles him to carry a firearm of the
class described on the licence. There is no restriction on the number
of firearms that each person may own. (27)
(25) Hobart Mercury, August 13th, 1977.
(26) National Times, May 30th, 1977.
(27) Firearms Laws In Australia. op. cit., p. 103.
– 17 –
UNITED KINGDOM LEGISLATION
69. Ownership and the registration of firearms in the United
Kingdom are controlled by the Firearms Act 1968. Forms of
registration and licensing have existed in the United Kingdom since
the end of World War One. The system used there varies greatly from
most Australian States, for example there are only two firearm
classifications which are:-
(a) pistols and rifles.
70. Shotguns are not liable for individual registration. A
registration fee must be paid if you own one but there is no need to
record the brand name and serial number of each gun. Rifles and hand
guns are grouped together but must be individually registered.
71. As in Australia the Police are responsible in the United
Kingdom for the issue of firearms certificates. Conditions of issue
are however much more stringent than say in Victoria. Requirements
for a firearm certificate are:-
(a) sufficient reason to require a firearm.
(b) safe storage area for firearm.
(C) specify where the firearm and ammunition will be when not
(d) be of good character. (28)
72. In addition to having a check of criminal records made by
police the applicant may have to show some form of corroboration of
the facts contained on his application form. It is not unusual for
police to want to inspect where the firearm will be stored. On this
point alone a lot of people are discouraged from applying for
ownership of firearms.
(28) Current Firearms Controls op. cit., p. 203.
– 18 –
73. Unless the applicant is known personally to police enquiries
into his background will be made. Enquiries will be made with police
from areas that he frequents and generally an Inspector will handle
the application personally. Other factors that may influence the
police are his family and close associates demeanour. Should for
example there be a relative or close friend residing in the same
premises as the applicant and that person has a prior conviction for
violence or a history of drunkeness then the chances are that the
application will be turned down. The applicant is informed of this
fact and may appeal to a Court of Quarter Sessions (before a Judge)
and argue his point.
74. As a general rule the firearms laws of the United Kingdom are
interpreted much more stringently than those of the various
Australian States. The only instance where issue of a firearm is
relaxed is ownership of a shotgun. As mentioned earlier shotguns are
not required to be registered individually but the owner must be
licensed, this is generally only a matter of paying the required fee.
Effectiveness of Policing
75. It is difficult to gauge in this particular situation whether
or not the strict registration and licence procedures have
effectively restrained the number of firearm related offences that
have occurred in the United Kingdom. The principle of tight gun
control is to stop the flow of guns to the criminal element. It was
the intention of the Government in 1973 to introduce individual
registration of shotguns, however the firearm enthusiasts protested
vigourously and the legislation halted. Since that period the
Government has seen fit to increase the price of firearm registration
and shotgun licensing, in effect the fee has increased 1,600 % in the
last 14 years. See Appendix “G”.. (29)
76. By increasing the prices of firearm registration and the
licensing of shotgun owners in the manner that they have it would
appear that a large volume of people have either sold off their
firearms or declined to renew their registrations and licences. The
total number of firearms in England and Wales in 1969 was 209,946,.
in 1968 the fees were 5s. upon purchase and 2s.d. upon renewal, it was
mooted that in 1982 the price would be £41 for purchase and £31 for
renewal. See Appendix “G”‘. It is this very factor of steep price
rises that has caused firearm enthusiasts to become militant on the
matter of registration..
77. In 1968 the number of firearms registered in England and Wales
was estimated at 209,946. At this time the fee to register a gun was
very cheap. The Government of the day moved to have shotguns made the
subject of registration also. The firearms fraternity in the U.K.
argued strongly against such a move. They were successful and the
shotgun issue was dropped, however as a trade off the Government
increased the price of registration and renewal. Since that time the
price of registering a firearm has gone from 5s ($0.50 -Australian)to
£25.00s ($50.00 – Australian).
(29) Handgunner, September – October, 1982. British publication.
– 19 –
78. By way of reaction to the price increase in registration it
has now been determined that in 1982 there are 51,000 less firearm
registrations and the figure is decreasing a further 4,000 each year.
No enquiry has been held to determine whether or not the owners have
actually sold their firearms because of the expensive registration
fees or they have just not bothered to renew then each year. In
effect in 1982 fees had increased by 130 % and registrations were
down by 24%. (30) See Appendix “G”.
Renewal of Registration
79. In Victoria the registration fee is paid once and that
suffices for as long as the present owner retains possession of the
firearm, the same system is utilised in all of the other states of
Australia. Not so in the United Kingdom, in fact every year the
firearm is subject to registration renewal and the local police are
responsible for visiting the owner at his home to check that the same
condition under which the licence or registration was granted still
applies. This may include:-
(a) does the holder still own the firearm.
(b) are his storage facilities still adequate.
(C) has he been convicted of any offences in the past year.
(d) are his reasons for possessing the firearm still valid.
Enquiries will be made with his local gun club to ensure
that he is still an active member of the club.
(e) inspection of the amount of ammunition fired by the
applicant. If little use has been made of the gun he may be
invited to sell the weapon or he may have difficulty in
having the registration renewed.
NEW ZEALAND REGISTRATION
80. In 1920 the First World War had just finished with many
servicemen bringing pistols and automatic firearms back into the
country. They were freely available at stores. Revolution had
occurred in Russia and there was fear that large scale industrial
demonstrations could occur in New Zealand. Historically the Arms Act
was introduced and registration of all firearms including shotguns
was introduced in an effort to control the illegal use of firearms.
(30) Current Firearms Controls. op. cit., p. 212.
– 20 –
81. The police were given the responsibility to handle the
registration and within 2 years there were over 20,000 firearms on
file. By 1928 the sheer volume of work in registering all of the
firearms was proving difficult for the police, at one stage there were
more firearms on record than there were inhabitants of New Zealand.
In 1929 a Bill was introduced to Government to dispense with the
registration of rifles and shotguns, the Bill was defeated. In 1930 a
compromise was reached and shotguns were dropped from the registration
82. Initially it was argued that firearm registration was
effective in keeping track of firearm movements and a way in which
criminals could be located. However the number of firearms on record
made indexing the system manually, time consuming and often mistakes
were made. Some-criminals were traced via the use of the firearms
registrations, however the number is minimal and in 1968 the Police
Department decided to put all of its records onto the National
computer at Wanganui. This idea failed when it was found that the
records were so out of date that it was impracticable.
83. To counter this problem it was decided to have every firearm
owner call in to their local Police station with their firearm so an
inspection could be made and accurate descriptions could be placed
into the computer. At this stage there were 350,000 firearm owners
and over 500,000 firearms with no estimate of the number of shotguns.
Those who could not call into the Police Station would have to be
visited. Eleven years later in 1979 it was found that some Police
Districts had still not completed their enquiries.
Board of Enquiry
84. A Government Board of Enquiry was convened and the subject of
the enquiry; of Firearm Registration reviewed At the completion the
results were made public and recommendations put to the Government.
(a) a personal check of all firearm owners from 1968-73 could
not be finished.
(b) as a result of the check the accuracy of the index was in
(c) to register rifles and shotguns as well would mean
correcting all existing records.
(d) periodic renewal of all records would be necessary.
(e) in light of the fact that the last check took eleven
years and was still uncompleted it would place a massive
burden on the police that was unjustified. (32)
(31) Project Foresight. New Zealand Government Publication, 1985. p. 3
(32) Project Foresight. op. cit., p. 7.
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85. Consequently it was decided to abandon registration and
introduce licensing of the person. Reasons why this was more
(a) police costs will be reduced.
(b) very little use of the index and system indicated that it
did not assist in tracking down criminals.
(c) police will have immediate access to records on who is
licensed to own a firearm.
(d) allow recreational shooters to pursue their sport without
(e) reduce police time spent on maintaining records.
(f) allow police to spend more time in the community. (33)
Licensing Procedures for Firearm Owners
86. In 1983 the New Zealand Government passed a new and much
revised Arms Act that removed many of the anomalies existing in
previous legislation. Regarded by many as being the most enlightened
and forward thinking firearms legislation in the Western world this
century the Arms Act introduced some significant changes. Foremost
amongst these is the discarding of the requirement that all firearms
had to be registered with the police. Whilst the police still play a
major role in the new Act certain changes have taken place:-
(a) the applicant is required to obtain an-application form from
the police station and detail background information on
himself and provide the police with the names of two
referees. Both these persons will be asked if the applicant
is a fit and proper person-to own a firearm.
(b) the police will provide the applicant with a book on firearm
safety. The applicant will be advised to study the book.
(c) the police will inform you of a date to attend the New
Zealand Mountain Safety Council lecture in the area. At the
completion of the lecture which takes 2 hours the applicant
will be asked questions from the lecture and the book he was
given earlier. A written test will also be given. See
Appendixes “H” & Hill.
(d) on successful completion of the exam the New Zealand Mountain
Safety Council Officer will give the applicant a certificate
which he can resent at the police Station. Provided that all
the other requirements have been met the police will issue
the applicant with a Firearms licence that is valid for
(33) Project Foresight. op. cit., p.8.
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(e) the licence allows the holder to possess rifles and
shotguns of any calibre and to buy, sell or do whatever he
wishes with firearms. The minimum age for such a licence
is 16 years. (34)
Tables of Comparisons
87. A table of Legislative Comparison is indicated at Appendix “J”.
INTERVIEWS AND OPINIONS
Sports Shooting Association
88. Members of the Sports Shooting Association of Victoria hold
strong views in relation to firearms control and firearms
registration. As part of my research I interviewed the Secretary of
the organization Mr. Ted Clarke, a man with over 40 years experience
in firearm sport and administration, the following points were
(a) members of the Sports Shooting Association were of the
view that the police must play a vital role in the
conduct of the firearms legislation and registration as
they have control over criminal records and it was not in
the community interest to see undesireable people licensed
to possess firearms.
(b) almost all members of the organization, the largest in
Australia were of the belief that registration served no
purpose other than to serve a means of restricting firearm
owners amongst the population and that it would later
serve as form of taxation. Members of the Victorian
Branch were concerned that the left wing elements of the
labour party were practising marxist doctrines in
attempting to curb the number of firearms amongst the
(c) most members believe that shooters licences could be
issued by a non police organization with the police
retaining a right to veto any person found to be found to
(d) in the past inconsistent view points in relation to
firearms control by issuing officers had fueled a lot of
ill feelings between some police members and members of
the shooting fraternity. It was not unusual apparently
for an applicant to be refused a firearm licence in one
suburb simply because of the Firearm Inspectors personal
view point and dislike of civilians possessing firearms,
a simple change of address to an area where a more liberal
Inspector worked usually reversed the decision.
(34) The New Zealand Firearm Handbook, 1985 Edition, New Zealand
Mountain Safety Council, Wellington, New Zealand.
– 23 –
(e) firearms officers often in the past had imposed limits on the
number of firearms one could possess without there being any
basis at law for the imposition of such limits. Applicants
were often forced to go to court and pay out money for
Solicitors etc. on the personal whim of a policeman.
(f) almost without exception members of the Association and allied
shooting clubs were of the opinion that registration was an
invasion of civil liberties and as such was not a viable
proposition. The main basis of this belief was that
registration will only reflect the names of the honest people
who are prepared to submit their details to the Registrar and
that the criminals, who are more likely to transgress the
firearm laws would not bother. When all things were to
be taken into account it was for this very reason that
registration was introduced.
(g) in the United Kingdom firearms registration fees were now at
exorbitant prices and the members here could see that in time
the Government may see fit to bring our own fees into line
with those in the United Kingdom. It was also likely that an
annual fee for registration could be imposed as has been done
in the U.K.
Government Statute Draughtsman
89. In an effort to obtain different view points I also
interviewed the Victorian State Government Statute Draughtsman Mr.
Robert Emmersly. During the interview we discussed several aspects
of the initial legislation of which Emmersly had draughted, some of
these points are:-
(a) The objectives of the Firearms Act.
(i) protect the public from injury.
(ii) prevent damage to property from the misuse of firearms and
(iii) to minimise the effects of misuse of firearms.
(b) In reply to a question asking the effectiveness of registration
to date, Emmersly replied, “I’ve yet to see a study that adopts
the fact that registration is effective”. In relation to our
own registration policy an accurate conclusion could not
be-reached as the initial period will not be completed until
– 24 –
(c) On the issue of Police control of firearms legislation and
registration Emmersly was of the belief that whilst firearms
registration was actually carried out by civilians the
administration of the Registry and the legislation was best
carried out by police. He could not see any alternatives that
could be considered viable and was of the opinion that as
police controlled the criminal records and that nine out of
every ten firearms licence cancellations arose from police
observation or police initiated court action they were in fact
the obvious choice.
(d) The financial burden of firearms registration has been capably
met by the recent increase in the cost of shooters licences.
Initially to cover the cost of computerisation printing etc.
and other costs the estimate of one million dollars to set up
registration was made. This was based on the estimate of one
million firearms being present in Victoria. The ongoing costs
of registration were worked out at $8.30 per shooters licence
per year. As can be seen at this stage the cost of issuing
shooters licences and registration is cost effective in terms
of dollars and cents.
(e) In terms of cost effectiveness, objective wise it is too early
to determine whether or not registration is working in
Victoria. Although the Legislative Committee initially
envisaged over one million firearms would be registered
during the four year registration period, at best there can
only be 520,000 firearms registered by February 1987 if the
current trends continue.
(f) In reply to a question of the likelyhood of a price rise of
firearms registration Emmersly was of the belief that this
was most unlikely unless the Government saw it as an avenue of
creating indirect taxation.
90. In this paper I have confined my research to the laws relating to
firearm registration within Australia and two overseas countries,
Great Britain and New Zealand. I chose Great Britain and New Zealand
as they have similar lifestyles and political ideologies as Australia.
I have also briefly covered the history of firearms registration in
Victoria and New Zealand and researched the matter of the issue of
shooters licences in all Australian States, the United Kingdom-and
– 25 –
91. When dealing with these two topics I also reviewed matters
arising from them, namely the role that police play in the issuing of
shooters licences, the administration of firearms registration and
legislation and in their absence could a civillian organization take
their place or in view of the number of firearms in the community can
it be successfully done at all.
Number of Firearms in Victoria
92. In order to establish whether or not registration of firearms
can adequately be undertaken it is necessary to determine how many
firearms there are in the state. To do this a monitoring system can
be set up to gauge the degree of effectiveness of registration. The
following authorities have made estimates based on their own
(a) Robert Brewer, Secretary of Firearm Traders Association,
estimates one million firearm and several hundred thousand
airguns etc. This estimate is derived from facts within his
own knowledge and the monthly customs importation sheets.
(b) Chief Inspector Brian Fennessy, the Registrar of Firearms for
the State of Victoria estimates that for every licensed
shooter there are 2.8 firearms within the state. It is
estimated that the 260,000 licensed shooters own
approximately 728,000 firearms. At this stage there are
460,000 firearms registered in the state with an estimate
that by the end of the first 4 year registration period in
February 1987, there will be approximately 520,000 firearms
(c) Robert Emmersly, State Government Statute Draughtsman
responsible for the legislation in relation to firearms
registration estimates one million firearms in the state.
(d) Mr. Ted Clarke, Secretary of the Shooting Sports Council of
Victoria estimates around 800,000 from facts within his own
knowledge and adds that with the inclusion of airguns and air
rifles onto the definition of firearms there could well be in
excess of one million.
93. It would appear that an estimate of the number of guns within
the community cannot be made with any great degree of accuracy. As a
result of my own investigations and research I believe the figure of
one million firearms to be a fair assessment. Even allowing for an
error factor of 20% which would reduce my estimate to a minimum of
800,000 firearms it is evident that many people are either not
registering their firearms or are only registering some of their
94. Although the initial 4 years allowing for firearm registration
in Victoria has not yet been completed the number of firearms
estimated on current trends indicates a maximum of 520,000. This
figure is well short of the discounted estimate of 800,000. Using
those figures it appears that in February 1987 there will be 280,000.
unaccounted for firearms within the State.
– 26 –
Registration of Firearms, “Is it a Police Responsibility?”
95. If we are to accept that Registration is here to stay and will
become an integral part of our firearms control legislation then the
question of who is to be the organization responsible for the control
of registration must be considered.
96. Presently the Victoria Police have a Registrar and Deputy
Registrar of Firearms with a staff of 60 public servants who are
engaged in the actual physical task of firearm registration.
97. The police role in carrying out the registration is minimal,
the role of the Registrar and his Deputy is that of a legally
appointed guardian acting on behalf of the Government to ensure that
the provisions of registration as set down by the Firearms Act is
complied with. The police also have the legal authority to be able
to prosecute for any breach of the Firearms Law.
98. A comparison to other states in Australia regarding firearm
control legislation indicates that the police as a rule are preferred
to be the responsible body for firearms control.
Can the task of Registration be effectively carried out
99. The research carried out in relation to the viability of
firearm registration strongly indicates that the exercise is costly,
inaccurate and ineffective. This is borne out by the fact that it
has been abandoned in such places as New Zealand and in very recent
times about to be abandoned in South Australia. One of foremost
authorities on British Firearms Legislation the former Chief
Inspector Colin Greenwood had this to say in relation to
“Careful examination of the evidence available suggests therefore
Legislation has failed to bring under control substantial
numbers of firearms and that it certainly cannot be claimed that
strict controls have reduced the number of firearms in crime.
On the basis of these facts it might be argued that firearms
registration has little effect and don’t justify the amount
of-police time involved. (35)
(35) Firearms Control. op-. cit., p. 245.
– 27 –
100. Although firearms registration in most Australian States
is a fairly recent innovation it would appear that already some
states are preparing to repeal legislation. Registration has only
been in operation in South Australia for 5 years but a recent (April
1986) investigation into the viability of the scheme had this to
“If the objective of registration of firearm is to determine
their numbers, who uses them and where they are (even if there
is another objective which has reasonable substance to it) the
apparent inaccuracy of the existing system of registration and
its cost indicate that the objective cannot be achieved. (36)
Registration & Administration, Police Role?
101. Research indicates with the exception of the Australian
Capitol Territory the police are the body responsible for the
registering of firearms and the licensing of person to own or use
those firearms in every state and territory of Australia. It would
appear that, there is little or no form of protest by members of the
shooting fraternities or the public with the present system.
102. This has not always been so, in the past in Victoria the
issue of shooters licences by the police created ill feeling between
some of the shooting clubs and certain police members. This was
bought about by the attitudes of some inspectors towards licensing
people to possess high powered rifles and what are now classed as
category C weapons. The advent of the Firearms Consultative
Committee and a more uniform and liberal approach towards the granting
of licences has eased what previously had been an unpleasant
103. The notable acceptations to police being responsible for
licensing and registration is the Australian Capitol Territory and
New Zealand. In both cases external bodies are responsible for the
licensing of applicants whilst the police maintain their traditional
role of checking the character of the applicant. New Zealand
authorities take the matter further and then they remove the need to
register firearms at all.
104. This system of civilian responsibility for firearms
control appears to operate effectively on the surface. However a
close look behind the scenes indicates that police still have the
overall responsibility for actual firearms control and the right to
veto any person thought to be unfit to possess a firearm.
(36) Shooters Journal, April 1986. p. 3.
– 28 –
105. There is little doubt that the police are in the best
position to be used in the administration of the Firearms Act and the
registration of firearms. By their constant involvement with the
public and the community they are able to monitor firearms, abuse and
community trends in relation to the use of firearms. They are also in
a position to be able to give feed back to the Firearms Registrar and
the Firearms Consultative Committee if required.
106. In recent times members of the shooting fraternities have
put forward the motion that they should have the role of looking
after their own industry, certainly members of the Victorian Shooters
Association and the Victorian Firearms Traders have supported this
motion. To add impetus to their argument they cite the current set
up in New Zealand whereby the police maintain a background role and
allow the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council to conduct the issue of
Lack of Firearms Safety Tests in Victoria
107. Research into the subject of firearms control and
registration brings to the forefront the lack of firearm safety tests
in Victoria. Whilst other states of Australia and New Zealand
conduct safety tests on applicants for shooters licences we in
Victoria seem to shy away from it in favour of what appears to be a
pointless exercise in the registration of firearms.
108. On research into the viability of firearms registration
and the licensing-of people to use firearms I find that there are
several areas requiring attention. My recommendations are as
(a) The initial period of 4 years in which firearm registration
was to be phased in is not yet expired. The
ineffectiveness of the actual registration is already
proving its counter productiveness. I therefore recommend
that firearm registration be abandoned forthwith as there
are hundreds of thousands of firearms that will not be
(b) In the event of my recommendation to abandon registration
not being accepted I believe that the present
administrative arrangement of two senior police officials
maintaining control and supervising a large pool of public
service staff be continued in its present form.
– 29 –
(c) I also believe firearms safety testing in the form of
written tests should be implemented in Victoria as soon as
possible. The New Zealand system could be used as a model.
(d) The present staff involved in firearm registration or part
thereof is more than capable of administering firearms
safety testing in a similar manner to that which is
performed,— in New Zealand. Police would retain their
right to veto any person found to be unsuitable.
(e) That the police remain the administrators of the Firearms
Act in matters of policy and control but that where possible
public servants perform clerical roles.
(f) I do not see any direct benefit to be obtained by allowing
external agencies such as the Victoria Shooters Council to
be the Governing body on matters pertaining to firearms
control because of their vested interests.
109. The main purpose of this paper has been to examine the
viability of firearms registration and the control of the licensing of
people to use and possess firearms. I have read many articles on the
matters and interviewed several people from both sides of the fence.
Without meaning to pre-empt some of the areas under examination I find
conclusively that firearms registration is an exercise in futility. I
believe that the present registration system is a Political tool that
was implemented in order to fulfill an election promise.
110. With the high rate of accidents that occur with firearms mainly
as a result of ignorance on behalf of the owner or user I believe that
it is paramount that a system of public awareness or education be
given to firearm owners and that there can be no better time than
right at the start before a person is elegible to possess a firearm.
I do not believe that tighter firearms control will reduce the number
of firearm accidents but that a better educated user will.
111. There can be no doubt that the control of firearms should belong
to a disciplined organization with Government affiliations. The
police are in the best position to monitor activities within the
community and on that basis are the people best suited to control and
administer the Act.
– 30 –