On 16 June 2017, the Minister for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan MP, announced that from 1 July 2017, there will be a National Firearms Amnesty giving all Australians an opportunity to hand in unregistered and unwanted firearms and improve community safety. According to the Media Release, this is the first nation-wide gun amnesty since 1996, when the Government took action following the the Port Arthur Massacre.
According to SA Police, the aim of the National Firearms Amnesty is to make the community a safer place by removing unwanted, unregistered or illegal firearms, firearm parts, mechanisms, fittings, prohibited firearm accessories, silencers and ammunition from the community, making it harder for guns to fall into the wrong hands.
Members of the public in possession of unwanted, unregistered or illegal firearms, firearm parts, mechanisms, fittings, prohibited firearm accessories, silencers and ammunition are encouraged to hand these in at a participating licensed firearms dealer's premises or to police at any police station during the National Firearms Amnesty without fear of prosecution.
The Amnesty also permits any person holding a current firearms licence to surrender a firearm to a participating licensed firearms dealer to make an application to register the firearm fee-free or to sell the firearm to the participating licensed firearms dealer. The Amnesty will not provide protection to any person using or in possession of an illegal firearm or other item for any reason other than for the purpose of surrendering it to a member of the police force or a participating licensed firearms dealer.
Mr Keenan told the ABC News:
"Clearly the fact [is] we've got a deteriorating national security environment, we've got an environment where there has been five terrorists attacks on our soil and sadly in the vast majority of those cases it has been an illegal firearm that's been used...Clearly that makes this top of mind and why we want to make sure we can clear as many illegal firearms from the community as possible."
The vice-president of Gun Control Australia, Roland Browne, said the amnesty would not do anything to combat terrorism:
"Amnesties are good in the sense that they take guns out of the hands of the community who don't need them and that's especially helpful in the case of suicide...Introducing an amnesty is an easy fix, it is not a backwards step, but it is not actually solving the problem and the problem is guns moving out of the hands of legal users into those who shouldn't have them."
The National Firearms Amnesty is to last 3 months and is set to end on 30 September 2017. Outside of the amnesty period, anyone caught with an unregistered firearm could face a fine of up to $280,000, up to 14 years in jail, and a criminal record.
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