5 Facts You Need to Know if You Want a Firearms License in New South Wales

Following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, the Australian government changed the law concerning the ownership of firearms in response to the deaths of 35 people. As in every other state, residents of New South Wales must now pass strict regulations to own and use a firearm, and it's not always possible to get the permission you want. Before you apply for a firearms license in New South Wales, make sure you understand the five following facts.

1. You must have a genuine reason to own a firearm.

The 1996 Port Arthur massacre led many people in Australia to question why anyone should own firearms. As such, in order to get a license in NSW, you must show the authorities that you plan to use the gun for one of a fixed number of genuine reasons.

Genuine reasons include:

  • Sport and target shooting
  • Vermin control and other rural occupations
  • Security business employees
  • Club members who collect firearms

Unlike other countries, Australia does not allow the possession of firearms for personal or property protection. Make sure you can prove that your reason for ownership is genuine, or the authorities will decline your application.

2. You can only have a license for a fixed period of time.

The NSW government does not issue firearms licenses for indefinite periods of time. Even if you pass the approval process, you will need to renew your license at regular intervals after this, for which you will need to continue to meet all the relevant criteria. You can apply for a license for a two or five-year period.

3. The authorities will carry out personal history checks as part of your application.

As well as sticking to a restricted list of genuine reasons for a firearms license, the state authority will conduct personal history checks to confirm that you meet other criteria. Licensing officers will confirm basic details such as residency, but they will also decline your application if you have certain criminal convictions or behaviour orders.

For example, if the police have issued you with an Apprehended Violence Order, you won't get a license while the order is active or for ten years after the order expires. Similarly, you can't have a license if you are under the terms of a good behavior bond.

4. You must meet safe storage requirements.

Before the authorities will approve your request for a firearms license, you will need to show that you meet the safe storage requirements under section 39 of  the 1996 Firearms Act. Under the Act, license holders must take every reasonable precaution to make sure a gun does not fall into the wrong hands. 

For a gun safe to meet these rules, the storage unit must:

  • Weigh less than 150 kilograms when empty
  • Be fixed down to stop theft
  • Be of a type on an approved list
  • Be constructed from hard wood or steel

You can get details of approved safes from the state Police Commissioner. Talk to local gun safe suppliers like Askwith Company for more information.

5. You must undertake firearm safety training.

Even if you pass all the other rules, you must also take a special firearms safety course. The authorities only allow certain training associations to carry out these courses. For example, for longarms, courses are available through resources like The Firearms Safety Training Council and the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia. You can also contact your local shooting club for more advice.

You'll need to show the authorities proof that you have attended the course. Although you can complete the application form online, you will still need to send a copy of the training certificate to the authorities.

Strict controls mean that the NSW state government will only issue firearms licenses under certain circumstances. To avoid disappointment, make sure you check out the rules before you apply.