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On 21 February, the Western Australia Government proposed legislation for strong new firearm reforms. These changes will mean Western Australia has the strongest firearm laws in Australia.

At the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, we commend these measures as a step towards keeping our community and children safer.

But how do the other states and territories compare? We’ve put together this guide to help you better understand the inconsistencies across the country.

The difference in firearm laws across Australia's state and territories

While Australia has some of the strongest firearm laws in the world, we believe there is still much work to be done to enhance responsible firearm ownership and reduce the risk of gun-related harm to children and the community.

In the wake of the Port Arthur tragedy, there was a bi-partisan political response that saw the introduction of firearm law reforms that have made Australia relatively safe from firearm violence. 

The key reform was a National Firearms Agreement that saw every jurisdiction agree to a minimum set of requirements for the use and possession of firearms. 

Unfortunately, coming up to 28 years since the NFA was signed, no state or territory government in Australia is fully compliant with the Agreement. 

Age categories

It may come as a surprise to some that children as young as 12 years old are legally permitted to use firearms in Australia. Until recently, Western Australia permitted children as young as 10 years old to use firearms.

The National Firearm Agreement states that no one under 18 should be licensed to use or possess a firearm.

However, all jurisdictions circumvent this clause by having a permit system for children that allows them to use firearms under the supervision of a licensed firearm owner.

The Foundation has called on all governments to follow the intention of the National Firearm Agreement, and we see absolutely no legitimate reason to introduce children to using firearms.

Firearm categories

Each State/Territory in Australia handles certain high-powered, rapid-fire weapons differently. Each jurisdiction has its own classification or prohibition regime which means that some firearms are banned in some States and freely available to licensed shooters in others.

For example, the Wedgetail MPR308 (a pump-action rifle) is banned in New South Wales, Tasmania and the ACT, while individuals with a recreational and sporting shooter licence in Qld, NT, WA, and SA can buy one.

Stephen Bendle, Convenor of the Australian Gun Safety Alliance (AGSA), of which the Alannah & Madeline Foundation is a founding member said, “all jurisdictions should be consistent in ensuring that [firearms like these] are prohibited, or at the very least available only to a very few highly regulated professional shooters.”

Limits on the number of firearms per person

In the Western Australian Government’s proposed legislation, a maximum limit of 10 firearms per person has been introduced. This would make WA the only State or Territory to limit the number of firearms a person can own.

The lack of specific and consistent firearm limits in Australia has allowed firearm owners to stockpile firearms – increasing the risk of unauthorised access to firearms and their potential use in harming children and the greater community.

For example, data from Police Annual Reporting shows that there is an individual in a major Australian city who owns over 400 firearms.

The Foundation contends that a total of five firearms should be the absolute maximum that a person is able to hold to ensure public safety.

Championing children's safety in Australia

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children wherever they live, learn and play.

We support firearm reforms in Australia as a proactive measure to enhance child safety by advocating for responsible, safe and strong firearm regulations to reduce the risk of gun-related harm to children and the community.

You can stay informed of our advocacy work by following us on social media or by signing up below to our newsletter for updates.