New firearm laws to be introduced in Western Australia
In Western Australia new firearm laws are being introduced to give police officers sweeping powers to target bikie groups and organised crime gangs.
Are penalties for firearms offences tough enough?
It has long been acknowledged that Australia has some of the toughest gun laws in the world, and as a reflection of these laws, compared to other crimes, firearms offences across the nation are relatively low – even though in recent times there has been a spike here in Western Australia.
In Western Australia, gun laws are very similar to the laws that exist in other states. The laws are embedded in the Firearms Act 1973 and the Firearms Regulations 1974.
The Firearms Act sets out a range of offences relating to the improper use, possession and storage of guns. Any failure to comply with these laws can result in a person being fined, serving jail time, or having their firearms seized or gun license revoked.
Regularly, across the nation there are debates about whether firearms laws and the subsequent penalties for breaking the law are actually strong enough.
Typically, these discussions occur when there has been a horrific crime involving firearms, such as the 2018 Osmington shootings in which seven people, including four children, were discovered dead from gunshot wounds on a rural property near Margaret River. At the time, it was described as the deadliest mass shooting in Australia in decades.
Gun laws are also regularly reviewed and occasionally amendments to the laws are made in the wake of these types of tragedies, or in response to crime statistics and trends.
Firearm laws are being expanded
In Western Australia new legislation is being introduced, giving police officers sweeping new powers to target bikie groups and organised crime gangs.
The centrepiece of the legislation is the Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO) Scheme which enables police to ban anyone reasonably suspected of posing a threat to the community from holding a gun licence or from living in a house where guns are stored.
What is the Firearm Prohibition Order Scheme?
Once an FPO has been served on an individual, police will have the power to stop and search that person and anyone in their company at any time. This includes the power to enter and search their home, car, or workplace, at any time, to search for illegal guns.
Anyone found to be in breach of an FPO could face jail terms of up to 14 years and fines of up to $75,000.
Increased penalties for some firearms offences
Penalties for anyone involved in drive-by shootings, or discharging (firing) a gun at a house or building, are also going to be increased. The maximum jail terms for unlawfully discharging a firearm in public to cause fear will be lifted from 3 to 7 years, with fines increasing to $36,000.
Jail terms for anyone caught in unlawful possession of a firearm will also double from 3 years to 7 years and the maximum fine for this offence will increase from $12,000 to $36,000.
This is why it's important for anyone who owns a firearm to familiarise themselves with the difference between controlled and prohibited weapons.
The proposed changes to our laws will also make it illegal to manufacture plastic 3D firearms, which have been caught in a ‘grey area’ of the law for some years. Anyone guilty of making 3D guns will face a maximum penalty of 14 years in jail.
A penalty of 10-years behind bars applies to offences which relate to being in possession of instructions, or plans or equipment for making 3D guns.
Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
It’s really important to remember that it is offence to be in possession of a firearm while affected by drugs or alcohol.
This offence has a maximum penalty of $6,000 or 2 years imprisonment.
Gel blasters are now classified as a ‘prohibited weapon’ under the Weapons Act WA 1999.
The penalty for unlawful possession of a gel blaster is up to three years in jail or a fine of up to $36,000.
We Can Help
If you have been charged with a criminal offence in relation to a firearm and need representation from an Perth Criminal Lawyer, contact the Andrew Williams Criminal Law Offices without delay on (08) 9278 2575.
PLEASE NOTE: The material in this blog post is for informational use only and should not be construed as legal advice. For answers to your questions regarding this or other topics, please contact a professional legal representative.