Possessing an Unregistered Long Arm

– section 6A of the Firearms Act 1996
Longarm
This charge is laid where a person has an unregistered longarm in their possession.
Examples of Possessing an Unregistered Long Arm
  • You are carrying around your father’s old hunting rifle in your bag, intending to take it on a hunting trip on the weekend, and it is not registered.
  • You have a tranquiliser gun in the backseat of your car that you use for shooting pests. It is not registered.
Questions in cases like this
  • Is the longarm a Category A, B, C, D or E longarm gun?
  • Was the longarm gun in your possession?
  • Was the gun registered?
What are some of the possible defences to Possessing an Unregistered Long Arm?

A defence to this may arise where an accused had the weapon for the purposes of self-defence. Other defences include lack of intention to possess the firearm, honest and reasonable mistake of belief, factual dispute, and the concept of beyond reasonable doubt.

You should ring us and discuss your case if you have been charged. Deciding on whether to plead guilty or not has huge consequences for you and should be made after proper discussion with a criminal lawyer.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

Possessing an unregistered longarm gun will probably involve confiscation of the weapon, large fines, and possibly, especially for repeated offences, prison terms. As this is a summary offence, this will be heard by the Magistrates’ Court.

The maximum penalty depends on the category of longarm gun found in the accused’s possession. The maximum penalty increases substantially if it is not the first offence.

ImprisonmentA category A or B longarm can attract a penalty of 120 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment for a first offence, or 1200 penalty units or 10 years imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.

A category C or D longarm can attract a penalty of 240 penalty units or 4 years imprisonment for a first offence, or 1200 penalty units or 10 years imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.

A category E longarm can attract a penalty of 600 penalty units or 7 years imprisonment for a first offence, or 1200 penalty units or 10 years imprisonment for a second or subsequent offence.

What is the legal definition of Possessing an Unregistered Long Arm?

A non-prohibited person must not possess, carry or use a Category A, B, C, D or E longarm that is not registered.

Legislation

The legislation for this offence can be found in section 6A of Firearms Act 1996.

Elements of the offence

To prove this charge, the Prosecution must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused possessed a longarm gun, and
  2. The longarm gun was a Category A, B, C, D or E longarm, and
  3. The longarm gun was not registered.

Did the accused possess a longarm gun?
Whether the accused was in possession of the longarm gun will be a matter of fact. If the accused had the gun in the boot of their car, this could amount to constructive possession. The prosecution will probably look to whether the accused had effective custody or control over the gun.

“Can they prove you were in possession of a longarm gun?”

Was the gun a Category A, B, C, D or E longarm?
The type of longarm gun the accused has in their possession will affect the likely penalty they would receive. The definitions of different types of longarms are contained in section 3 of the Firearms Act 1996.

‘Category A longarm’ means any of the following:

  1. an airgun;
  2. a rimfire rifle (other than a semi-automatic rimfire rifle);
  3. a shotgun (other than a pump action or semi-automatic shotgun);
  4. any combination of a shotgun and rimfire rifle;

‘Category B longarm’ means any of the following:

  1. a muzzle loading firearm;
  2. a centre fire rifle (other than an automatic or a semi-automatic centre fire rifle);
  3. any combination of a shotgun and centre fire rifle;
  4. a black powder, ball firing cannon;

‘Category C longarm’ means any of the following:

  1. a semi-automatic rimfire rifle with a magazine capacity of no more than 10 rounds;
  2. a semi-automatic shotgun with a magazine capacity of no more than 5 rounds;
  3. a pump action shotgun with a magazine capacity of no more than 5 rounds;
  4. a tranquiliser gun;

Longarms‘Category D longarm’ means any of the following:

  1. a semi-automatic rimfire rifle with a magazine capacity of more than 10 rounds;
  2. a semi-automatic shotgun with a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds;
  3. a pump action shotgun with a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds;
  4. a semi-automatic centre fire rifle;
  5. any other firearm prescribed for the purposes of this category;
  6. any other firearm that is declared under section 3A(1) to be a category D longarm;
  7. any other firearm that is declared under section 3B(1)(a) to be a category D longarm;

‘Category E longarm’ means any of the following:

  1. a machine gun that is a longarm;
  2. a tear gas gun or projector;
  3. a shotgun or rifle with a length of less than 75 centimetres measured parallel to the barrel;
  4. a mortar, bazooka, rocket propelled grenade or similar large calibre military firearm designed to fire an explosive or projectile or any other similar prescribed firearm;
  • a cannon which is not a black powder ball firing cannon;
  1. any other firearm prescribed for the purposes of this category;
  2. any other firearm that is declared under section 3A(1) to be a category E longarm;
  3. any other firearm that is declared under section 3B(1)(b) to be a category E longarm;

Was the longarm gun registered?
It is the responsibility of the accused to make sure that the longarm gun is registered. It will not be a defence if they didn’t know the gun had to be registered.

Sentencing in the higher courts

From 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016, there were 39 charges of Non-prohibited Person Possessing a Category A or B Unregistered Longarm that were heard in the higher courts of Victoria. Most of these charges led to imprisonment (61.5%) but other sentences were also imposed: Community Correction Order (15.4%), fine (12.8%), and adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal (10.3%).

Of the prison terms imposed, 79.2 % were less than a year while 16.7% were more than a year but less than 2 years.1

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Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts

In the Magistrates’ Courts, a total of 315 cases (364 charges) were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. Majority of these cases resulted in financial penalties (38.5%). Other penalties imposed include: Community Correction Order (22.8%), imprisonment (17.6%), adjourned undertaking/discharge/dismissal (16.5%), wholly suspended sentence (3.6%), partially suspended sentence (0.6%), and other forms of sentencing (0.6%).

Most of those who were fined fell under the “$1,000 < $2,000” (34.3% for aggregate fines) and “Less than $500” (2.9% for non-aggregate fines) categories. The highest amount imposed was between $10,000 and $20,000 but this category was applied in only 2.9% (aggregate fines) of the charges that led to fines.

The longest term of imprisonment imposed was in the “36+ months” category which had 1.7% of all the cases where prison term was imposed. The majority were however given much shorter prison terms that fell under the “3 < 6 months” category (33.9%).2

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.3

Other important resources
Media information
Case studies related to Possessing an Unregistered Long Arm

 



[1] SACStat Higher Courts – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 6A(1) – non-prohibited person possessing a category A or B unregistered longarm < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_96_66_6A_1.html >
[2] SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 6A(1) – non-prohibited person possess category A or B unregistered longarm < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_6A_1.html >
[3] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >