Criminal Defence Factsheets

Firearm Offences | Factsheet

Firearm Offences | Factsheet

Firearms and prohibited weapon offences mainly fall under the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW). This act came into force after the Port Arthur massacre where a man with a gun killed 35 people and wounded 23 in Tasmania in 1996. 

The Firearms Act 1996 regulated the unauthorised possession, use, manufacture and supply of firearms. 

This factsheet applies to NSW Legislation. However, under the National Firearms Agreement, most legislation is similar. If you have a query about gun laws in other states, contact us for a free consultation. 

Do I have to register my firearm?

Yes! The only people exempt from registration are police officers, prison officers and defence force members while acting in their duties. 

If you have an antique firearm, you don’t have to register it to possess it, but if you want to use it, it will need registration. 

When you register your firearm, the administrative authority will send you a registration certificate.

Do I need a licence to have a firearm?

Yes! You must have a current firearm licence or permit and have a Permit to Acquire a firearm (PTA). You can apply for a PTA through Service NSW.

Unlicensed possession of a  firearm (s.7A Firearms Act 1996)

It is an offence to possess a gun without a firearm licence or permit. Usually, this offence means a hearing in the Local Court. However, sometimes there is a decision have the matter heard in the District Court. 

In the Local Court, the maximum jail time is two years. If the matter proceeds to trial in the District Court, you could face up to 5 years in jail. 

There are two elements the prosecution needs to prove. They must prove that the firearm was in your possession and that the firearm was unlicensed. 

If the weapon is a prohibited firearm (including machine guns, sub-machine guns, pump-action shotguns and more), then the maximum penalty can be up to 14 years in prison. 

Unregistered firearms (s.36(1) Firearms Act 1996)

You must not supply, acquire, possess or use a firearm that is unregistered. 

The maximum penalty is 5 years in jail, and if the firearm is prohibited then the maximum penalty is 14 years in jail. 

Safekeeping of firearms (s.39 Firearms Act 1996)

Under the Act, you must take all reasonable steps to ensure the safekeeping of the firearm and make sure it is not lost or stolen. 

The maximum penalty for breaching this is up to 12 months prison, or two years if the weapon is prohibited. 

Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO) (s.74A Firearms Act 1996)

A firearms prohibition order (FPO) is an order that the NSW Police Commissioner makes to restrict a person’s ability to possess and use firearms.

Any officer can nominate someone for an FPO including staff within the NSW Firearm Registry

If the order does apply, it becomes an offence to acquire, possess or use a firearm, parts or ammunition. Breaching the FPO can result in up to 14 years in prison, and can be up to 5 years for handling ammunition alone.

Have you gotten an FPO?

The police have really broad powers to detain you, enter your premise or stop and detain any vehicle you’re in control or possession of under s. 74A of the Firearms Act. The police do not require a search warrant if you get an FPO. 

Given the broad powers, it’s important you’re aware of your review rights. After getting an FPO, you have 28 days to request the NSW Police review the decision. If they refuse to reconsider the decision, you might be eligible to take the matter to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). 

However, if you have a serious drug or dishonesty offence conviction, or you’ve been subject to an AVO, you will not be eligible for review of the order. 

These orders last forever, meaning that at any point in your life after you get an an FPO, the police can enter your home, your car or your persons.

Given the broad powers and limited review options you should contact O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors as soon as you get an FPO.  

firearm offences pistol behgind back

Firearms offences under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)

In addition to the Firearms Act, there are firearms offences under the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). 

Discharge firearm with intent (s.33A Crimes Act)

It is an offence to discharge (shoot), or attempt to discharge a firearm with intent to:

  • cause grievous bodily harm (s.33A(1) Crimes Act); or
  • resist arrest (s.33A(2) Crimes Act).

The penalty for these offences is up to 25 years in prison, with a standard non-parole period of 9 years. 

Use weapon in resist of lawful apprehension (s.33B Crimes Act)

It is an offence to use, attempt to use, threaten to use or even possess an offensive weapon with any of the following states of mind:

  • intent to commit an indictable offence
  • intent to prevent or hinder lawful apprehension or detention
  • intent to prevent or hinder an investigation. 

The maximum penalty for this is 12 years in jail. The penalty is 15 years if committed with another person. That is, the offence has an aggravation by being in company.

Causing danger with a firearm (s.93G Crimes Act)

It is an offence to :

  • be in possession of a loaded firearm in a public place or any other place where you may endanger the life of another person (s. 93G(1)(a) Crimes Act);
  • discharge (shoot) a firearm in or near a public place (s.93G(1)(b) Crimes Act); or
  • to carry or fire a firearm in a manner likely to injure a person or property with disregard for the safety of the offender or others (s.93G(1)(c) Crimes Act).

All three offences listed above have a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. 

Firing at dwelling-houses or buildings (s.93GA Crimes Act 1900)

It is an offence to fire a firearm at a house or building with reckless disregard for the safety of any person (s.93GA(1) Crimes Act). 

The maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment. 

Police charged me with an offence relating to firearms – what should I do?

If police charge you, you should contact O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors immediately to seek legal representation. 

Gun offences carry severe penalties and you deserve dedicated representation regardless of the charges at hand. 

Firearm Offences Case Studies

If you have been charged with any firearm-related offences, contact O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors for respectful and dedicated representation.


O’Brien Criminal & Civil Solicitors
p: 02 9261 4281
a: Level 4, 219-223 Castlereagh St,
Sydney NSW 2000

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