What happens to a firearm after it has been seized by police?

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GunWhat happens to a firearm after it has been seized by police? If it has not been taken as a piece of evidence or to be used as an exhibit in a trial, then there are options as to what happens with the gun, if you know what the procedure is.

A client had a gun seized by police because he had become a ‘prohibited person’ under the Firearms Act and had their firearm licence suspended. The gun was held in the Licensing Services Division of Vic Pol (VicPol LSD).

The nature of the offence for which the client pleads guilty to/is found guilty of determines the length of time they are a prohibited person under the Firearms Act 1996.

The Firearms Act 1996 details a number of offences that result in a person being considered prohibited and therefore, ineligible to possess a firearm licence and firearm.

A person will be considered prohibited for the term of 12 months if they are found guilty, by any Australian Court, of:

  • an offence against the Firearms Act 1996 for which a court could impose a term of imprisonment;
  • an offence against any other act involving the possession or use of firearms and for which a court could impose a term of imprisonment;
  • an indictable offence.

Where the Court has imposed a term of imprisonment, the person will not be able to make an application to be ‘non-prohibited’ whilst serving this term or during the fixed period following this term in which the law continues to regard them as prohibited. Once this period expires a person is no longer considered prohibited and can apply directly for a firearm licence.

A person not sentenced to a term of imprisonment is also eligible to be considered prohibited. On the occasion that a person has not been imposed a term of imprisonment, they may make an application to be non-prohibited within 12 months of being found guilty. An automatic prohibition term of 12 months will be served by any person who has not made an application.

The reason a person became prohibited directly affects the length of time they are considered prohibited.
In relation to what happens to the firearm, there are 2 options;

1.    The client files a notice of abandonment, the firearm will be destroyed by the police (s189)
2.    Where the client wants to sell the firearm and take the proceeds, they can file an authority to have a registered firearm dealer collect the firearm from the police, who can then sell it on the client’s behalf.

This method is also useful where the client wants to keep the particular firearm in the ‘family’ – they can organise it so that a licensed friend/family member can purchase the gun from the registered dealer.

Generally the police will retain possession of the firearm for approximately 4 – 6 months in the gun safe before making steps to dispose of it.

It is procedure that they send correspondence to the person before doing so, however, there is a provision in the act that if they cannot make contact with the owner of the firearm, then they can proceed with its disposal.
Date Published: 6 April 2011

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