Store Firearm or Ammunition in an Insecure Manner

– section 129(A) of the Firearms Act 1996

AmmunitionAn unlicensed person in possession of a firearm must not store that firearm or any cartridge ammunition in an insecure manner.

Failure to store firearm or ammunition in a secure manner is in breach of section 129(A) of the Firearms Act 1996 (‘the Act’).

Examples of Store Firearm or Ammunition in an Insecure Manner
  • Storing a firearm on the garage floor behind a shelf
  • Storing a firearm or ammunition in a wardrobe
  • Storing a firearm or ammunition in the boot of a car in an insecure manner
Questions in cases like this
  • Was the firearm properly stored?
  • Where was the firearm or ammunition found?
  • Did you know that the firearm wasn’t properly stored?
  • Why was the firearm not stored correctly?
What are some of the possible defences to Store Firearm or Ammunition in an Insecure Manner?

The following defences are available to this charge:

  1. The Prosecution cannot prove the elements of the offence beyond reasonable doubt;
  2. Factual error about where the firearm or ammunition was stored

This is a serious charge that can carry significant penalties if an accused is proven guilty. It is crucial that you have a lawyer evaluate your case before deciding whether to contest or enter a plea of guilty to any criminal allegation of this nature.

Maximum penalty and court that deals with this charge

This offence carries a maximum fine of 240 penalty units (around $40,000) or 4 years imprisonment. As a summary offence, any summons for this charge will be heard in the Magistrates’ Court.

What is the legal definition of Store Firearm or Ammunition in an Insecure Manner?

GavelThe Firearms Act defines ‘firearm’ as:
any device, whether or not assembled or in parts—

  1. which is designed or adapted, or is capable of being modified, to discharge shot or a bullet or other missile by the expansion of gases produced in the device by the ignition of strongly combustible materials or by compressed air or other gases, whether stored in the device in pressurised containers or produced in the device by mechanical means; and
  2. whether or not operable or complete or temporarily or permanently inoperable or incomplete—

and which is not—

  1. an industrial tool powered by cartridges containing gunpowder or compressed air or other gases which is designed and intended for use for fixing fasteners or plugs or for similar purposes; or
  2. a captive bolt humane killer; or
  3. a spear gun designed for underwater use; or
  4. a device designed for the discharge of signal flares; or
  5. a device commonly known as a kiln gun or ring blaster, designed specifically for knocking out or down solid material in kilns, furnaces or cement silos; or
  6. a device commonly known as a line thrower designed for establishing lines between structures or natural features and powered by compressed air to other compressed gases and used for rescue purposes, rescue training or rescue demonstration; or
  7. a device of a prescribed class.
Legislation

The legislation for this offence can be found on section 129(A) of the Firearms Act 1996.

Elements of the offence

The prosecution must prove:

  1. The item in question is a firearm or cartridge ammunition or both;
  2. The accused possessed the firearm and/or cartridge ammunition in question; and
  3. The accused was not a holder of a license permitting possession under the Act.
“Can the Prosecution prove that the firearm was stored in an insecure manner?”
Sentencing in the higher courts

Higher CourtThere were 28 charges of Store Firearm or Ammunition in an Insecure Manner that were heard in the Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. Most of these charges resulted in imprisonment (78.6%) but there were also a number that led to partially suspended sentences (3.6%) and financial penalties (17.9%).

Majority of the charges that resulted in imprisonment were sentenced to a term that was less than 1 year (90.9%) while another 4.6% were sentenced somewhere between 1 and 2 years.1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.2

Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts

In the Magistrates’ Courts, 475 cases (611 charges) of Store Firearm or Ammunition in an Insecure Manner were heard from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These cases led to the following sentences:

  • Imprisonment – 28.2%
  • Fine – 28.2%
  • Community Correction Order – 22.5%
  • Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 10.3%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence – 6.7%
  • Partially Suspended Sentence – 3.0%
  • Youth Justice Centre Order – 0.8%
  • Other – 0.2%

The longest prison term imposed was 36+ months and was applied in 0.8% of the cases that resulted in imprisonment. The most frequently imposed term was less than 3 months (26.1%).

For the fines, the highest amount imposed was somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 for aggregate (applied in 1.4% of the charges that led to fines). The majority fell under the “$1,000 < $2,000” category (34.4% for aggregate fines). For non-aggregate fines, the categories “Less than $500” and “$500 < $1,000” were each imposed in 1.8% of the charges that led to fines.3

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.4

Other important resources

Call Doogue + George

Media information
Case studies related to Store Firearm or Ammunition in an Insecure Manner

 



[1] SACStat Higher Courts – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 129A – store firearm or ammunition in an insecure manner < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/higher_courts/HC_96_66_129A.html >
[2] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >
[3] SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 129A – store firearm or ammunition in an insecure manner < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_129A.html >
[4] Suspended Sentence | The Sentencing Advisory Council < https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence >