Gun laws in Australia

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Firearms were introduced to Australia with European settlement on 26 January 1788, though other seafarers that visited Australia before settlement also carried firearms. The colony of New South Wales was initially a penal settlement, with the military garrison being armed. Firearms were also used for hunting, protection of persons and crops, in crime and fighting crime, and in many military engagements. From the landing of the First Fleet there was conflict with Aborigines. Firearms were used to protect explorers and settlers from Aboriginal attack.[citation needed]

Gun laws in Australia became a political issue in the 1980s. Low levels of violent crime through much of the 20th century kept levels of public concern about firearms low. In the last two decades of the century, following several high-profile killing sprees and a media campaign, the Australian government coordinated more restrictive firearms legislation with all state governments. Gun laws were largely aligned in 1996 by the National Firearms Agreement.

A person who possesses or uses a firearm must have a firearm licence. Licence holders must be at least 18 years of age, have a "genuine reason" for holding a firearm licence[1] and must not be a "prohibited person". All firearms in Australia must be registered by serial number to the owner, who also holds a firearms licence.

National legislative structure[edit]

The ownership, possession and use of firearms in Australia is regulated by state laws.[2] Until 1996, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia had different gun laws. For example, long guns were not registered in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania; owners of firearms were required to be licensed from 1988, and licences were introduced for long guns in Tasmania in 1991.

In 1996 all states subscribed to the National Firearms Agreement (NFA), which was instituted through the Australian Police Ministers Council (APMC) with the cooperation of all states. The Australian state and territory laws regulating weapons are:[2]

At the federal level, the importation of firearms is subject to the restrictions in Regulation 4F and Schedule 6 of the Customs (Prohibited Goods) Regulations 1956 (Cth).

Firearms categories[edit]

The National Firearm Agreement defines categories of firearms, with different levels of control for each, as follows:.

Category A
Rimfire rifles (not semi-automatic), shotguns (not pump-action or semi-automatic), air rifles including semi-automatic, and paintball gun.
Category B
Centrefire rifles including bolt action, pump action and lever action (not semi-automatic) and muzzleloading firearms made after 1 January 1901.
Category C
Pump-action or self-loading shotguns having a magazine capacity of 5 or fewer rounds and semi-automatic rimfire rifles up to 10 rounds. Primary producers, farm workers, firearm dealers, firearm safety officers, collectors and clay target shooters can own functional Category C firearms.
Category D
All self-loading centrefire rifles, pump-action or self-loading shotguns that have a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds, semi-automatic rimfire rifles over 10 rounds, are restricted to government agencies, occupational shooters and primary producers.
Category H
Handguns including air pistols and deactivated handguns. This class is available to target shooters and certain security guards whose job requires possession of a firearm. To be eligible for a Category H firearm, a target shooter must serve a probationary period of 6 months using club handguns, after which they may apply for a permit. A minimum number of matches yearly to retain each category of handgun and be a paid-up member of an approved pistol club.[3] Target shooters are limited to handguns of .38 or 9mm calibre or less and magazines may hold a maximum of 10 rounds. Participants in certain "approved" pistol competitions may acquire handguns up to .45", currently Single Action Shooting and Metallic Silhouette. IPSC shooting is approved for 9mm/.38/.357 sig, handguns that meet the IPSC rules, larger calibres such as .45 were approved for IPSC handgun shooting contests in Australia in 2014.[4] Barrels must be at least 100mm (3.94") long for revolvers, and 120mm (4.72") for semi-automatic pistols unless the pistols are clearly ISSF target pistols; magazines are restricted to 10 rounds.
Category R/E
Restricted weapons include military weapons such as machine guns, rocket launchers, full automatic self loading rifles, flame-throwers and anti-tank guns.

Certain antique firearms (generally muzzle loading black powder flintlock firearms manufactured before 1 January 1901) can in some states be legally held without a licence.[5] In other states they are subject to the same requirements as modern firearms.[6] All single-shot muzzleloading firearms manufactured before 1 January 1901 are considered antique firearms. Four states require licences for antique percussion revolvers and cartridge repeating firearms, but in Queensland and Victoria a person may possess such a firearm without a licence, so long as the firearm is registered (percussion revolvers require a licence in Victoria).


European settlement to 19th century[edit]

Firearms were introduced to Australia with European settlement on 26 January 1788, though other seafarers that visited Australia before settlement also carried firearms. The colony of New South Wales was initially a penal settlement, with the military garrison being armed. Firearms were also used for hunting, protection of persons and crops, in crime and fighting crime, and in many military engagements. From the landing of the First Fleet there was conflict with Aborigines over game, access to fenced land, and spearing of livestock. Firearms were used to protect explorers and settlers from Aboriginal attack. A number of punitive raids and massacres of Aboriginals were carried out in a series of local conflicts. The history of these conflicts is contentious (see History wars).

From the beginning there were controls on firearms. The firearms issued to convicts (for meat hunting) and settlers (for hunting and protection) were stolen and misused, and this resulted in more controls. In January 1796, David Collins wrote that "several attempts had been made to ascertain the number of arms in the possession of individuals, as many were feared to be in the hands of those who committed depredations; the crown recalled between two and three hundred stands of arms, but not 50 stands were accounted for".[7]

Australian colonists also used firearms in conflict with bushrangers; in duels, the last in 1854; in armed rebellions, such as the Castle Hill convict rebellion in 1804 and the 1854 Eureka Stockade. The Eureka Stockade arose as a result of Government and police abuses against gold miners. A large force of police and soldiers assaulted a stockade set up by miners. Six soldiers and twenty-two miners were killed.

From the 1850s to the 1950s, Australians developed a strong volunteer tradition in preparing defence against possible invaders, and sent volunteer expeditionary forces to most British wars.[8]

20th century[edit]

Gun laws were the responsibility of each colony and, since Federation in 1901, of each state. The Commonwealth does not have constitutional authority over firearms, but it has jurisdiction over customs and defence matters. Federally the external affairs powers can be used to enforce internal control over matters agreed in external treaties.[citation needed]

In New South Wales, handguns were effectively banned after World War II but the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games sparked a new interest in the sport of pistol shooting and laws were changed to allow the sport to develop.

State gun laws varied widely. Western Australia and the Northern Territory had restrictions even on sporting rifles and shotguns, but in Queensland and Tasmania they could be bought without restrictions.[citation needed]

Fully automatic guns were banned on most of the Australian mainland from the 1930s, but remained legal in Tasmania until 1996.[citation needed]

In the 1940s and 1950s, Cold War concerns about ex-military rifles falling into the hands of communist radicals led New South Wales to place restrictions on the legal ownership of rifles of a military calibre (see: .303/25) while members of rifle clubs and military rifle clubs could own ex-military rifles.[citation needed] In the 1970s these restrictions were relaxed in New South Wales and military style rifles (both bolt-action and semi-automatic) once again became widely available, except in Western Australia and the Northern Territory.[citation needed]

Gun control activism in Australia became organised with the formation in 1981 of the "Committee to Control Gun Misuse" in Victoria, later to become Gun Control Australia.[citation needed]

1984–1996 multiple killings[edit]

From 1984 to 1996, multiple killings aroused public concern. The 1984 Milperra massacre was a major incident in a series of conflicts between various "outlaw motorcycle gangs". In 1987, the Hoddle Street massacre and the Queen Street massacre took place in Melbourne. In response, several states required the registration of all guns, and restricted the availability of self-loading rifles and shotguns. In the Strathfield massacre in New South Wales, 1991, two were killed with a knife, and five more with a firearm. Tasmania passed a law in 1991 for firearm purchasers to obtain a licence, though enforcement was light. Firearm laws in Tasmania and Queensland remained relatively relaxed for longarms.

Shooting massacres in Australia and other English-speaking countries often occurred close together in time. Forensic psychiatrists attribute this to copycat behaviour,[9][10] which is in many cases triggered by sensational media treatment.[11][12] Mass murderers study media reports and imitate the actions and equipment that are sensationalised in them.[13]

Port Arthur massacre and its consequences[edit]

The Port Arthur massacre in 1996 transformed gun control legislation in Australia. 35 people were killed and 23 wounded when the gunman opened fire on shop owners and tourists with two semi-automatic rifles. This mass killing horrified the Australian public.

The massacre occurred six weeks after the Dunblane massacre in Scotland.[9]

The Port Arthur perpetrator said he bought his firearms from a gun dealer without holding the required firearms licence.[14]

Prime Minister John Howard took the gun law proposals developed from the report of the 1988 National Committee on Violence[15] and convinced the states to adopt them under a National Firearms Agreement. This was necessary because the Australian Constitution does not give the Commonwealth power to enact gun laws. The proposals included a ban on all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and a system of licensing and ownership controls.

The Howard Government held a series of public meetings to explain the proposed changes. In the first meeting, Howard wore a bullet-resistant vest, which was visible under his jacket. Many shooters were critical of this.[16][17][18] Some firearm owners applied to join the Liberal Party in an attempt to influence the government, but the party barred them from membership.[19][20] A court action by 500 shooters seeking admission to membership eventually failed in the Supreme Court of South Australia.[21]

The Australian Constitution requires just compensation be given for property taken over, so the federal government introduced the Medicare Levy Amendment Act 1996 to raise the predicted cost of A$500 million through a one-off increase in the Medicare levy. The gun buy-back scheme started on 1 October 1996 and concluded on 30 September 1997.[22] The government bought back and destroyed over 1 million firearms.[23]

Following the National Agreement on Firearms, the number of deaths by firearms in Australia, initially declined slowly. Overall homicides immediately after saw a decrease of less than one per 100,000 persons. Over the medium term homicide by firearm dropped from 1/200,000 to 1/670,000.[24]

Between 2010-2014, gun related homicides across all of Australia had dropped to 30-40 per year. Firearms in 2014 were used in less than 15% of homicides, less than 0.1% of sexual assaults, less than 6% of kidnapping/abductions and 8% of robberies.[25]

Since the 1996 legislation the risk of dying by gunshots was reduced by 50% in the following years and stayed on that lower level since then.

The rate of gun related suicide was greatly reduced as well.[23] In 2010, a study reported a 59% decrease in firearm homicides in Australia between 1995 and 2006 (0.37 per 100,000 people in 1995 to 0.15 per 100,000 people in 2006).[26] They also reported that the non-firearm homicides fell by the same rate. The decreasing rate for homicide with a firearm was a continuation of a pre-existing decline prior to the 1996 reforms, and several analyses of these trends have been conducted and claimed that the reforms have had a statistically insignificant effect on homicide rates with a firearm .[27]

Suicides by firearm were already declining; however they fell significantly after controls, dropping around 50% in two years.[28] Overall suicide rates remained steady until a slight drop in 2003, followed by stable rates since then.[24]

Monash University shootings[edit]

In October 2002, a commerce student killed two fellow students at Monash University in Victoria with pistols he had acquired as a member of a shooting club. The gunman, Huan Yun Xiang, was acquitted of crimes related to the shootings due to mental impairment but ordered to be detained in Thomas Embling Hospital, a high-security hospital for up to 25 years.[29]

As in 1996, the federal government urged state governments to review handgun laws, and amended legislation was adopted in all states and territories. Changes included a 10-round magazine capacity limit, a calibre limit of not more than .38 inches (9.65 mm) (since expanded under certain criteria), a barrel length limit of not less than 120 mm (4.72 inches) for semi-automatic pistols and 100 mm (3.94 inches) for revolvers, and even stricter probation and attendance requirements for sporting target shooters. Whilst handguns for sporting shooters are nominally restricted to .38 inches as a maximum calibre, it is possible to obtain an endorsement allowing calibres up to .45 inches (11.43 mm) to be used for metallic silhouette or Single Action Shooting matches. These new laws were opposed not only by sporting shooters groups but also by gun control supporters, who saw it as paying for shooters to upgrade to new guns.

In the state of Victoria, figures show Victorians have handed in 18,814 guns to be destroyed — easily exceeding the Victorian Government's prediction that 10,000 guns would be given up. 15,184 replacement pistols were imported. The buyback is a joint initiative by the federal and state governments. Victorians have handed in more guns than shooters in any other state, 40% of the 46,072 weapons collected nationwide. Shooters have also handed in 228,063 gun parts. Almost $60 million compensation has been paid nationwide.[30]

One government policy was to compensate shooters for giving up the sport. Approximately 25% of pistol shooters took this offer, and relinquished their licences and their right to own pistols for sport for five years; in Victoria it is estimated 1/3 of people surrendering firearms took this option.[30]

Gun amnesties[edit]

In New South Wales there have been three gun amnesties in 2001, 2003 and 2009. 63,000 handguns were handed in during the first two amnesties and over 4,323 handguns were handed in during the third amnesty. During the third amnesty 21,615 firearm registrations were received by the Firearms Registry. The surrendered firearms were all destroyed.[31]

2014 Sydney hostage crisis[edit]

On 15–16 December 2014, a lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, held hostage 17 customers and employees of a Lindt chocolate café located at Martin Place in Sydney, Australia. The perpetrator was on bail at the time and had previously been convicted of a range of offences.[32] Two of the hostages and the perpetrator died.

In August 2015, Mike Baird and Troy Grant announced a tightening of laws on bail and illegal firearms, creating a new offence for the possession of a stolen firearm, with a maximum of 14 years imprisonment and establishing an Illegal Firearms Investigation and Reward Scheme. This legislative change also introduced measures to reduce illegal firearms in NSW including a ban on the possession of digital blueprints that enable firearms to be manufactured using 3D printers and milling machines for anyone without an appropriate licence.[33]

After the Lindt cafe deaths, Senator David Leyonhjelm labelled Australia a country of "disarmed victims".[34]

Measuring the effects of firearms laws in Australia[edit]

Measures and trends in social problems related to firearms[edit]

Between 1991 and 2001, the number of firearm-related deaths in Australia declined 47%.[35]

In 2014, 35 people were victims of firearms homicide,[36] compared to 98 people in 1996.[37]

Suicide deaths using firearms more than halved over the ten years, from 389 deaths in 1995, to 147 deaths in 2005.[38] to 7% of all suicides in 2005.[39]

The number of guns stolen has fallen from an average 4,195 per year from 1994 to 2000 to 1,526 in 2006–2007. Long guns are more often stolen opportunistically in home burglaries, but few homes have handguns and a substantial proportion of stolen handguns are taken from security firms and other businesses; only a tiny proportion, 0.06% of licensed firearms, are stolen in a given year. Only a small proportion of those firearms are recovered. Approximately 3% of these stolen weapons are later connected to an actual crime or found in the possession of a person charged with a serious offence.[40]

Contention over effects of the laws[edit]


In 1997, the Prime Minister appointed the Australian Institute of Criminology to monitor the effects of the gun buyback. The institute has published a number of papers reporting trends and statistics around gun ownership and gun crime.[41][42]

Many studies have followed, providing varying results stemming from different methodologies and areas of focus. David Hemenway and Mary Vriniotis of Harvard University, funded by the Joyce Foundation summarized the research in 2011 and concluded; “it would have been difficult to imagine more compelling future evidence of a beneficial effect.” They added that "a difficulty with determining the effect of the law was that gun deaths were falling in the early 1990s" and "most studies generally assumed that they would have continued to drop without the NFA". They added,[43]

Some researchers have found a significant change in the rate of firearm suicides after the legislative changes. For example, Ozanne-Smith et al. (2004)[44] in the journal Injury Prevention found a reduction in firearm suicides in Victoria, however this study did not consider non-firearm suicide rates. Others have argued that alternative methods of suicide have been substituted. De Leo, Dwyer, Firman & Neulinger,[45] studied suicide methods in men from 1979 to 1998 and found a rise in hanging suicides that started slightly before the fall in gun suicides. As hanging suicides rose at about the same rate as gun suicides fell, it is possible that there was some substitution of suicide methods. It has been noted that drawing strong conclusions about possible impacts of gun laws on suicides is challenging, because a number of suicide prevention programs were implemented from the mid-1990s onwards, and non-firearm suicides also began falling.[46]

Suicide reduction from firearm regulation is disputed by Richard Harding in his book "Firearms and Violence in Australian Life"[47] where, after reviewing Australian statistics, he said that "whatever arguments might be made for the limitation or regulation of the private ownership of firearms, suicide patterns do not constitute one of them" Harding quoted international analysis by Newton and Zimring[48] of twenty developed countries which concluded at page 36 of their report; "cultural factors appear to affect suicide rates far more than the availability and use of firearms. Thus, suicide rates would not seem to be readily affected by making firearms less available."

In 2005 the head of the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Don Weatherburn,[49] said that the level of legal gun ownership in NSW increased in recent years, and that the 1996 legislation had little to no effect on violence. Professor Simon Chapman, former coconvenor of the Coalition for Gun Control, complained that his words "will henceforth be cited by every gun-lusting lobby group throughout the world in their perverse efforts to stall reforms that could save thousands of lives".[50] Weatherburn responded, "The fact is that the introduction of those laws did not result in any acceleration of the downward trend in gun homicide. They may have reduced the risk of mass shootings but we cannot be sure because no one has done the rigorous statistical work required to verify this possibility. It is always unpleasant to acknowledge facts that are inconsistent with your own point of view. But I thought that was what distinguished science from popular prejudice."[51]

In 2006, the lack of a measurable effect from the 1996 firearms legislation was reported in the British Journal of Criminology. Using ARIMA analysis, Dr Jeanine Baker and Dr Samara McPhedran, researchers with the International Coalition for Women in Shooting and Hunting (WiSH), found little evidence for an impact of the laws on homicide, but did for suicide.[52]

Weatherburn described the Baker and McPhedran article as "reputable" and "well-conducted" but also stated that "it would be wrong to infer from the study that it does not matter how many guns there are in the community." Simon Chapman stated this study ignored the Mass Shootings issue such as Port Arthur Massacre.[53] Weatherburn noted the importance of actively policing illegal firearm trafficking and argued that there was little evidence that the new laws had helped in this regard.[54]

A study coauthored by Simon Chapman concluded: "Australia's 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides."[55]

Subsequently, a study by McPhedran and Baker compared the incidence of mass shootings in Australia and New Zealand. Data were standardised to a rate per 100,000 people, to control for differences in population size between the countries and mass shootings before and after 1996/1997 were compared between countries. That study found that in the period 1980–1996, both countries experienced mass shootings. The rate did not differ significantly between countries. Since 1996-1997, neither country has experienced a mass shooting event despite the continued availability of semi-automatic longarms in New Zealand. The authors conclude that "the hypothesis that Australia's prohibition of certain types of firearms explains the absence of mass shootings in that country since 1996 does not appear to be supported... if civilian access to certain types of firearms explained the occurrence of mass shootings in Australia (and conversely, if prohibiting such firearms explains the absence of mass shootings), then New Zealand (a country that still allows the ownership of such firearms) would have continued to experience mass shooting events."[56]

In 2009 a paper from the Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention at Griffith University concluded:

The implemented restrictions may not be responsible for the observed reductions in firearms suicide. Data suggest that a change in social and cultural attitudes could have contributed to the shift in method preference.[57]

A 2008 study on the effects of the firearm buybacks by Wang-Sheng Lee and Sandy Suardi of The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne studied the data and concluded, "Despite the fact that several researchers using the same data have examined the impact of the NFA on firearm deaths, a consensus does not appear to have been reached. In this paper, we re-analyze the same data on firearm deaths used in previous research, using tests for unknown structural breaks as a means to identifying impacts of the NFA. The results of these tests suggest that the NFA did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide or suicide rates."[58]

A 2010 study claimed, on the basis of modelled statistical estimates, that the gun buyback scheme cut firearm suicides by 74% and had no statistically significant effect on non-firearm suicides. The study,[26] by Christine Neill and Andrew Leigh, found no evidence of substitution of method of suicide in any state. The estimated effect on firearm homicides was of similar magnitude but less precise.

In 2012, McPhedran and Baker found there was little evidence for any impacts of the gun laws on firearm suicide among people under 35 years of age, and suggest that the significant financial expenditure associated with Australia's firearms method restriction measures may not have had any impact on youth suicide.[59]

A 2013 report by the Australian Crime Commission said a conservative estimate was that there were 250,000 longarms and 10,000 handguns in the nation's illicit firearms market. The number of guns imported to Australia legally has also risen, including a 24% increase during the past six years in the number of registered handguns in NSW, some of them diverted to the black market via theft or corrupt dealers and owners.[60] A 2014 report stated that approximately "260,000 guns are on the Australian 'grey' or black markets", and discussed the potential problem of people using 3D printers to create guns. NSW and Victorian police obtained plans to create 3D printed guns and tested to see if they could fire, but the guns exploded during testing.[61]

In a 2013 report Lemieux, Tim Prenzler and Samantha Bricknel compared mass shootings between America and Australia and found that no mass shootings had happened in Australia since 1996, but that there were reductions in America that were evident during the 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapon Ban, with increases subsequently.[62]

A 2016 study using data from the Australian National Injury Surveillance Unit reported that there were no mass firearm killings following the 1996 gun law reforms through May 2016. They also reported a more rapid decline in firearm deaths between 1997 and 2013 compared with between 1979 and 1997, but there was also a decline in total nonfirearm suicide and homicide deaths of a greater magnitude. Because of this, the investigators concluded it was not possible to conclude with any certainty that the change in firearm deaths could be attributed to the gun law reforms.[63]

Statements by organisations[edit]

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) is the peak national body representing farmers and, more broadly, agriculture across Australia. In a submission to the review of the NFA the NFF criticised the National Firearms Agreement as being “rushed into existence under emotional circumstances, without proper consultation or due consideration of unintended consequences”. “Unfortunately the ability of our police agencies to reduce firearm related violence has been seriously undermined and compromised by political actions over the past 20 years or so. Existing strategy has focussed massive police resources into regulating (and consequently alienating) the legitimate users of firearms and neglecting almost completely the criminal misuse of firearms. It is estimated that since the NFA was developed, well over $1 billion has been spent on controlling legal firearms and their owners.” “(E)stimates (of maintaining firearms registries) place the cost somewhere between $27 million and $100 million annually. These funds could be better spent putting more police officers into our communities actively focussed on apprehending and prosecuting offenders of firearm-related crimes.” “The requirement to register all Category A & B firearms should be disbanded.”[64]

The American National Rifle Association claimed in 2000 that violent crimes had increased in Australia since the introduction of new laws. Then federal Attorney General Daryl Williams wrote to the NRA to protest.[65]

CLASS (The Coalition of Law-Abiding Sporting Shooters) in 2003 stated that no benefit-cost analysis of the buyback had been carried out and that scientific debate was politicised and ignored benefits of shooting and costs forced on legitimate owners.[66]

The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia states that there is no evidence that gun control restrictions in 1987, 1996 and 2002 had any impact on the already established trends.[67][68]

Responding to Neill and Leigh, The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia replied [69] that suicide by firearm has been decreasing steadily since the mid-1980s, but suicide by other methods such as hanging has not followed the same trend; that important assumptions of the work were not mentioned in media reports; that 93% of people replaced their seized firearms with at least one, if not more, to replace their loss; and recommended the work of Lee and Suardi, who reviewed almost 90 years of ABS data when making their conclusions, while Leigh and Neill chose to analyse only two five-year periods on either side of the 1996 buy-back.

Major players in gun politics in Australia[edit]

Federal government[edit]

Until 1996, the federal government had little role in firearms law. Following the Port Arthur massacre, the Howard Government (1996–2007), with strong media and public support, introduced uniform gun laws with the cooperation of all the states, brought about through threats to Commonwealth funding arrangements. The then Prime Minister John Howard frequently referred to the USA to explain his opposition to civilian firearms ownership and use in Australia, stating that he did not want Australia to go "down the American path".[70][71][72] In one interview on Sydney radio station 2GB he said, "We will find any means we can to further restrict them because I hate guns... ordinary citizens should not have weapons. We do not want the American disease imported into Australia."[73]

In 1995 Howard as opposition leader expressed a desire to introduce restrictive gun laws.[74]

In Howard's autobiography Lazarus Rising: A Personal and Political Autobiography, Howard expressed his support for the anti-gun cause and his desire to introduce restrictive gun laws long before he became prime minister. In a television interview shortly before the 10th anniversary of the Port Arthur massacre, he reaffirmed his stance: "I did not want Australia to go down the American path. There are some things about America I admire and there are some things I don't. And one of the things I don't admire about America is their... slavish love of guns. They're evil". During the same television interview, Howard also stated that he saw the outpouring of grief in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre as "an opportunity to grab the moment and think about a fundamental change to gun laws in this country".[75]

Howard had strong public support in the immediate aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre, especially from those people who regularly voted against the Liberal Party. The Nationals had strong support from rural voters, some of whom were opposed to the government's moves towards gun control.

The National Firearms Agreement continues to have support from both Labor and Coalition Federal Governments.[76][77]

Gun control organisations[edit]

Active lobbying in Australia for gun control has been conducted mainly by Gun Control Australia (GCA). the National Coalition for Gun Control (NCGC) and the Australian Greens Party.[citation needed] The GCA and NCGC merged in July 2012.

The NCGC had a high profile in the public debate up to and immediately after the Port Arthur Massacre. Rebecca Peters, Roland Browne, Simon Chapman and Reverend Tim Costello[78] appeared in media reports and authored articles to support their aims.[79] In the aftermath of Port Arthur a number of public health bodies added their support to the NCGC.

In 1996 the NCGC received the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission's Community Human Rights award.[80]

In 2003 Samantha Lee as chair of the NCGC was financed by a Churchill Fellowship to publish a paper[81] arguing that current handgun legislation is too loose, that police officers who are shooters have a conflict of interest, and that licensed private firearm ownership per se presents a threat to women and children.[82] In a late 2005 press release, Roland Browne as co-chair of the NCGC, advocated further restrictions on handguns.[83][84]

Gun Control Australia has published a number of booklets, maintains a website, and occasionally is quoted in the media.[citation needed]

In July 2012, GCA announced a merger with the National Coalition for Gun Control, and that Samantha Lee of NSW and Roland Browne of Tasmania would join President John Crook and Vice-President Rhonda Collins as spokespersons.[citation needed]

Pro-gun organisations[edit]

Shooting clubs have existed in Australia since the mid-19th century. They are mainly concerned with protecting the viability of hunting, collecting and target shooting sports, rather than keeping firearms for self-defence as in the USA. Australian shooters regard their sport as under permanent threat from increasingly restrictive legislation. They argue that they have been made scapegoats by politicians, the media, and anti-gun activists for the acts of criminals who generally use illegal firearms. Their researchers have found scant evidence that increasing restrictions have improved public safety, despite the high costs and severe regulatory barriers imposed on shooters in Australia.[85][86]

The largest organisation of firearms owners is the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA) was established in 1948, and had 175,000 members as at 2015.[87] SSAA state branches lobby on local issues, while SSAA National addresses federal legislation and international issues. SSAA National has non-government organisation (NGO) status at the United Nations and is a founding member of The World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities (WFSA), which also has NGO status. SSAA National has a number of people working in research and lobbying roles. In 2008, they appointed journalist and media manager Tim Bannister as federal parliamentary lobbyist.[88]

For handguns, one major organisation in Australia is Pistol Australia.[89]

There are several other national bodies, such as Field and Game Australia, the National Rifle Association of Australia, the International Practical Shooting Confederation (IPSC), the Australian Clay Target Association and Target Rifle Australia. These national bodies with their state counterparts concentrate on a range of sporting and political issues ranging from Olympic type competition through to conservation activities.

The Combined Firearms Council of Victoria was created in late 2002 and has been very active in the debate in Victoria. The CFCV ran advertisements in the 2002 Victorian state election and made voting recommendations at the 2002 and 2006 Victorian state elections, supporting specific candidates rather than political parties. Four of the six ALP MPs elevated to the front bench after the 2002 Victorian election were supported by the CFCV. A Firearms Consultative Committee, established in 2005 in Victoria, led to several changes to firearms legislation that benefited handgun users and gun collectors.

The Shooters and Fishers Party is a political party that started in New South Wales claims to be "the voice of hunters, shooters, fishers, rural and regional Australia and independent thinking Australians everywhere. Advocating for the politically incorrect, a voice of reason, science and conservation".[90] Its founder, John Tingle, served as an elected member of the upper house of New South Wales parliament, the Legislative Council, from 1995 until he retired in late 2006. The party currently holds two seats in the NSW Legislative Council.[91] In 2013 a Western Australian branch was formed and stood candidates in the state elections, winning a seat in the WA Legislative Council.[92] Shooters and Fishers candidates won two upper house seats in the 2014 Victorian state election.

Other parties[edit]

The One Nation party in 1997–98 briefly gained national prominence and had strong support from shooters. A number of minor political parties such as the Liberal Democratic Party of Australia (who are currently represented by David Leyonhjelm in the Australian Senate), Outdoor Recreation Party, Country Alliance and Katter's Australian Party (represented by Bob Katter in the House of Representatives)[93] have pro-shooter/pro-firearm platforms.


  1. ^ Lawful reasons for having a firearm licence
  2. ^ a b Library of Congress: Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Australia
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ In ACT: "Firearms Act 1996 (ACT) s 6(2)(a)". ; In NSW: "Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) s 6A(1)". ; In Qld: "Weapons Act 1990 (Qld) s 5, Sch 2". ; In SA: for definition of 'antique firearm', see "Firearms Act 1977 (SA) s 5". , for exemption, see: "Firearms Regulations 2008 (SA) reg 6". 
  6. ^ In Vic: definition of an 'antique firearm', see "Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) s 3(1)". , for licensing, see "Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) ss 22–23". ; In Tas: "Firearms Act 1996 (Tas) s 28(1)". ; In WA: "Firearms Act 1977 (WA) s 16(1)(b)". 
  7. ^ Christopher Halls 1974, Guns in Australia, Paul Hamlyn Pty Ltd Dee Why NSW
  8. ^ De LAAT, Frans Karel (2008) The History of the Navy Cadet Movement in Australia. p.14
  9. ^ a b Mullen, Paul quoted in Hannon K 1997, "Copycats to Blame for Massacres Says Expert", Courier Mail, 4/3/1997
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