Australia has some of the toughest gun laws in the world. In the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, which saw 35 people killed and 23 wounded, then-Prime Minister John Howard pushed for a sweeping new national framework called the National Firearms Agreement.
The agreement restricted the private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic firearms, self-loading and pump action shotguns, and certain handguns. It restricted the ownership and use of firearms to only licensed individuals who had a genuine need or reason to own a gun. Personal protection was not included as a genuine need.
Today, there are still gun shops in Australia, but they are heavily regulated with strict licencing requirements for gun dealers, buyers and owners.
So, let’s have a look at what you need to get a firearms licence.
Gun licence requirements
To buy, sell or own a gun in Australia, you are required to have a firearm licence. Licensing requirements differ from state to state, but all follow the same federal framework.
There are strict eligibility criteria that must be satisfied before you can successfully apply for a firearm licence. Requirements include proof of identity, proof of genuine need, rigorous background checks and completing a firearm safety course.
Gun owners must also re-apply and re-qualify for a licence every one to five years, depending on the licence category.
There are five different firearm licence categories:
- Category A
Includes air rifles, rimfire rifle (other than self-loading), shotgun/rimfire combinations, shotgun (other than pump action, lever action or self-loading)
- Category B
Includes muzzle loading firearms (other than pistols), centre-fire rifles (other than self-loading), shotgun/centre-fire combinations, lever action shotguns with a magazine capacity of no more than five rounds
- Category C
Prohibited except for limited purposes. Includes self-loading rimfire rifles with a magazine capacity of no more than 10 rounds, self-loading shotguns with a magazine capacity of no more than five rounds, pump action shotguns with a magazine capacity of no more than 5 rounds
- Category D
Prohibited except for official purposes. Includes self-loading centre-fire rifles, self-loading rimfire rifles with a magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds, self-loading shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds, pump action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds, lever action shotguns with a magazine capacity of more than five rounds, any firearm to which a category C licence applies
- Category H
Pistols including blank fire pistols and air pistols
Gun owners can only have the type and number of guns specified on their licence and there are limits on the ammunition they can buy in a given period.
The particular firearm licence category you can apply for will be determined by your genuine need as stated on the application.
In Australia, you must be able to show genuine need in order to successfully apply for a firearm licence.
There are only eight genuine reasons for obtaining a firearms licence:
- Sport/target shooting
- Recreational hunting/vermin control
- Primary production
- Vertebrate pest animal control
- Business or employment
- Rural occupation
- Animal welfare
- Firearms collection
You must be able to prove genuine need with the appropriate accompanying evidence. Different firearm licence categories have different evidence requirements.
Your genuine reason will determine the category of licence you can apply for and the type of firearm you’re authorised to possess and use.
Proper and fit person
In Victoria, you must be able to show you’re a “proper and fit person” in order to possess, carry, use, acquire or dispose of a firearm. Generally this is done through thorough background checks that include an Australian police check, an international police check (if you’ve lived overseas for more than 12 months), medical and psychological background checks, a reference check and any other relevant checks.
You may not be considered a proper and fit person if you have:
- A criminal history relating to firearms
- Been convicted of a prescribed offence or deemed a prescribed person by the court
- Not been able to prove you’re a person of good character
- Any history of violence
- Provided false or misleading information to the police
- A history of physical or mental illness that may impair your ability to handle a firearm
- A record of significant drug or alcohol misuse
Submitting the application form
Before you can submit your licence, there is a minimum 28-day mandatory waiting period applied to all new licence applications.
If you can satisfy the requirements outlined above, then you are ready to submit your application.
There are different application forms and requirements for different licence categories. In Victoria, some different applications include:
- Longarms licence (Categories A, B, C, D or E)
- Handgun licence (General Category or Category E)
- Junior firearm licence
- Provisional general category handgun licence
- Heirloom licence
Your application must include 100 points of identification, including one primary identification document, like a passport or birth certificate, and one secondary document showing your current residential address. The documents must be properly certified and you must provide an identification reference from an acceptable referee who has known you for at least 12 months.
You must also include a copy of firearm safety course certificate and any relevant police or background checks. You will also be photographed and fingerprinted.
Australia takes its gun laws extremely seriously. If you are considering applying for a new firearms licence, make sure you do your research, as the application process can be complex and time consuming.