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Unlicensed Own Category A or B Longarm

– section 135(1) of the Firearms Act 1996

Without a licence, it is illegal to possess a category A or B longarm under section 135(1) of the Firearms Act 1996. This is a serious charge that can carry significant penalties if an accused is proven guilty. You should have a lawyer evaluate your case before deciding whether to contest or enter a plea of guilty to any criminal allegation of this nature.
Pistols and firearms
As a summary offence, this charge will primarily be handled by the Magistrates’ Court.
 
What is the legal definition of Unlicensed Own Category A or B Longarm?
A person must not own a category A or B longarm unless that person is authorised by a licence under this Act to possess the firearm.

Examples of Unlicensed Own Category A or B Longarm
  • Your father passes away and leaves you his old firearms in his Will. Instead of handing them into the police, or obtaining a licence to possess the firearms, you keep them for a few years and go out hunting on the weekends.
Elements of the offence
The prosecution must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:

  1. The accused owned a category A or B longarm; and
    According to section 3 of the Firearms Act 1996, a 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;
    A 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;
  2. The accused did not have a licence authorising possession of the firearm.
Legislation
The legislation for this offence can be found on section 135(1) of the Firearms Act 1996.
 
Defences that can be run in response to this charge a lack of the necessary intent to possess, sudden or extraordinary emergency, incorrect factual matrix and the concept of beyond reasonable doubt.

Questions in cases like this
  • Did you own a firearm?
  • Was it a category A or B longarm?
  • Were you authorised to possess the firearm?

This offence has a maximum penalty of a fine of 60 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.
 
Sentencing in the Magistrates’ Courts
There were 65 cases (75 charges) of Unlicensed Own Category A or B Longarm that were heard in the Victorian Magistrates’ Courts from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2016. These cases resulted in the following sentences:

  • Fine – 50.7%
  • Adjourned Undertaking/Discharge/Dismissal – 20.0%
  • Community Correction Order – 18.7%
  • Imprisonment – 8.0%
  • Partially Suspended Sentence – 1.3%
  • Wholly Suspended Sentence – 1.3%
Of the cases that led to prison terms, 20% received the longest term imposed: somewhere between 12 and 18 months. Majority were sentenced to periods that were between 6 and 12 months. For the fines, the highest imposed was somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000 and was imposed to 2.6% of the charges that led to fines (for aggregate). The majority were however sentenced to an amount that was between $500 and $1,000 (36.8%).1

Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in Victoria for all offences committed on or after 1 September 2014.2


[1] Sentencing Advisory Council. “SAC Statistics – Firearms Act 1996 (Vic) : s 135(1) – unlicensed own category A or B longarm.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/sacstat/magistrates_court/96_66_135_1.html (accessed January 19, 2019).
[2] Sentencing Advisory Council. “Suspended Sentence.” SentencingCouncil.vic.gov.au. https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/sentencing-options-for-adults/suspended-sentence (accessed January 19, 2019).