The Firearms Bill (1996)

The Firearms Bill 1996 was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament on 19 June 1996, to implement the resolutions passed by the Australasian Police Ministers Council (APMC).

The former Prime Minister, John Howard, convened the APMC meeting following the tragic shootings at Port Arthur on 28 April 1996.

The objectives of the Act are based upon a series of resolutions made by the APMC in 1996, known as the “National Firearms Agreement”.

The New South Wales Government has made a commitment to abide by the terms of the National Firearms Agreement and the legislation follows within the framework established by the National Firearms Agreement.

Debate on the Bill was lengthy and sometimes heated, with a special Saturday sitting of the Legislative Assembly convened to ensure that all members had an opportunity to speak.

Discussion about firearm controls results in a wide range of views and positions being voiced from within the general community, amongst politicians, and from lobby groups and users of firearms. These views are often strongly held and diametrically opposed. A total of 3,935 written submissions were received during the initial consultation period.

At the time of the introduction of the Bill, the tragic shootings at Port Arthur also added to the emotional nature of the debate, galvanising public opinion on the issue of firearm controls.

The APMC resolutions sought to strike a balance between these opposing views and to introduce stricter firearm controls whilst recognising the legitimate uses of firearms amongst the law abiding shooting community, such as for sporting, hunting and farming and other purposes.

New South Wales is one of the few states to have received the Commonwealth Government endorsement for having fully implemented the National Firearms Agreement in its firearm legislation.

Important Principles of the NSW Act

  • To confirm firearm possession and use as being a privilege that is conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety.
  • To improve public safety.
  • To impose strict controls on the possession and use of firearms.
  • To promote the safe and responsible storage of firearms.
  • To facilitate a national approach to the control of firearms.
  • Key Objectives of the Act (derived from the National Firearms Agreement 1996)

The NSW Legislation introduced the legislation with specific intention to:

  • Prohibit the possession and use of all automatic and self-loading rifles and shotguns except in special circumstances
  • establish an integrated licensing and firearms registration scheme for all firearms
  • require each person who possesses or uses a firearm under the authority of a licence to prove a genuine reason for possessing or using the firearm
  • provide strict requirements that must be satisfied in relation to licensing of firearms and the acquisition and sales of firearms
  • ensure that firearms are stored and conveyed in a safe and secure manner.