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The Firearms Act 1996 (Tas) was introduced after the Port Arthur massacre, replacing the Guns Act 1991 (Tas). This Act implements by way of legislation the National Firearms Agreement, based on the premise that the ownership and use of a firearm is a privilege. Every person who owns or possesses a firearm is required to hold a licence and every firearm is required to be registered. Further, the range of firearms that can lawfully be used, possessed or collected is restricted.

Firearms Offences

Section 114 of the Firearms Act makes it a crime for a person to carry a gun with the intent to commit a crime or to resist arrest. It is also an offence (of aggravated assault) contrary to section 115 of the Act if, in the course of an assault, a person uses a firearm or threatens to use a firearm or carries a firearm. There is a significant range of other offences designed to preserve the integrity of the licensing and registration systems. These include offences of shortening firearms (i.e. a sawn off shotgun), possessing firearms without licenses, possessing silencers and prohibited magazines, and falsifying identification marks and records.

Public Order Offences

There are a number of public order offences set out in the legislation. These include:

  • obstructing police (s128);
  • possessing a loaded firearm in a public place (s111);
  • discharging a firearm in a public place (s112);
  • recklessly discharging a firearm (s113);

There are also a series of controls over the use and sale and possession of ammunition and gun parts.

Police Powers

Police are given extensive powers in relation to the enforcement of the provisions of the legislation. These include powers for police to:

  • stop and search a person who is believed to have possession of a firearm (s134);
  • enter and search premises with a warrant (s135);
  • enter any premises if the police officer believes that a dangerous situation has arisen (s137);
  • require a person to hand over any firearm for examination (s134).

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