DATE: Thursday, February 27, 2003


Tough new legislation to tighten handgun ownership, the first of its type in Australia, has been detailed in State Parliament today.

The legislation was prompted by the tragic shootings at Monash University last October and will prohibit the ownership of some firearms, toughen handgun licensing and outlaw the rapid stockpiling of handguns.

The Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Andre Haermeyer, said agreement was forged at a national level in December and Victoria was pushing ahead with reforms as promised.

"This legislation is expected to remove up to 9,000 handguns, particularly concealable weapons, from the Victorian community," Mr Haermeyer said.

The Firearms (Trafficking and Handgun Control) Bill will provide a system of graduated access to handguns used for target shooting, based on training experience and match participation.

Under the new laws, a person must:
· Be a member of an approved handgun target shooting club for six months before they can obtain a licence to have their own handgun;
· Only possess one .177 calibre air pistol and either one .22 calibre handgun or one centre fire handgun in the first six months of his or her licence and
· Must compete in at least ten approved competitions each year to keep their target shooting licence. Shooters who fail to meet minimum requirements will be compelled to surrender their handguns.

The legislation will allow a restriction on the type of handguns used at recognised sporting events, and the types of guns generally used, to 27 matches in seven target shooting disciplines. This will enable all Olympic and Commonweath Games shooting matches to continue.

Handguns with a magazine capacity of more than 10 shots will be banned. Handguns with a barrel length of less than 120mm for semi automatic pistols and 100mm for a single shot or revolver will not be allowed, except for large specialist target shooting pistols.

In most circumstances, the maximum allowable calibre will be .38. Some .45 calibre handguns may be allowed. Those details are still being finalised in consultation with the Federal Government and other states and territories.

Mr Haermeyer said the Bill would extend criminal and civil immunity for people who report a person to police who they believe is not a fit and proper person to possess, carry or use a firearm.

Immunity currently applies to registered medical practitioners, registered psychologists and nurses. This will be extended to include social workers and professional counsellors.

Mr Haermeyer said the bulk of crime involving handguns was committed by unlicensed people using unregistered weapons.

He said the bill would significantly increase, and in some cases double, the penalties for misusing firearms, with penalties of up to 14 years' jail.

"The Bracks Government is toughening trafficking firearms laws, but the Federal Government must also do its bit and tighten border controls. Currently only three in every 1000 containers entering Australia's docks are checked," Mr Haermeyer said.

Under the laws Police will be given the power to revoke a fire arms licence if the loss or theft of a firearm is due to the fraud of negligence of the licensee.

Under the changes, police could refuse or revoke a firearms licence and applications on the basis of criminal intelligence.

Firearms dealers will be required to disclose their "close associates" when applying for a licence and must supply their fingerprints.

Mr Haermeyer said the availability of handguns in Victoria was already tightly regulated and that these amendments would enhance existing arrangements.

"Victorians already need a genuine reason to own a handgun, such being a security guard, prison guard, a member of a shooting club authorised by the Chief Commissioner, or if the firearm is needed for an official or commercial purpose," he said.

You are prohibited from getting a handgun licence if you have:
- served a prison sentence in any Australian state in the past five years;
- been jailed on an indictable offence in the last 15 years;
- been the subject of a family intervention order in the past five years or
- been guilty of an offence under the Firearms Act in the past 12 months.

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