Page 2759 - Week 07 - Thursday, 3 July 2008
A recent study by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that theft of firearms is becoming a less viable method of supply for the illegitimate firearms market. As a result, it is logical that criminals are turning to other methods of supply, such as dealer diversion.
Recognising the important role played by firearms dealers, the bill introduces the concept of close associate. It is intended that a firearms dealer’s licence application be refused where a close associate of the applicant is not a suitable person. A close associate is a person who holds or will hold a financial interest in the dealer’s business and who is able to exercise significant influence over the conduct of the business.
Furthermore, the bill creates an offence for a firearms dealer to employ a prohibited person. Amendments in the bill will make it an offence for a firearms dealer to employ persons who are not suitable; that is, they do not satisfy the mandatory and discretionary criteria for firearms licences. Firearms dealers will be able to ask the firearms registrar for a statement about whether an existing or prospective employee is a prohibited person.
The obligation on firearms dealers with respect to the recoding of firearms transactions are also strengthened in the bill. Firearms dealers will need to provide the firearms registrar with monthly, rather than quarterly, returns of acquisition and disposal records. To support the increased supervision of dealers’ transactions, the bill also increases penalties associated with the unlawful disposal and unlawful acquisition of firearms. The penalty for these offences is increased from imprisonment for one year to 10 years in the case of prohibited firearms, and imprisonment for five years in any other case.
The illegal trade in small arms remains a concern, both nationally and internationally. In order for Australian firearms controls to be effective, it is essential that each and every jurisdiction have in place a robust and comprehensive set of laws to deal with those who seek to profit from the illegal trade in firearms. The bill, therefore, creates the new offence of trafficking in firearms. The penalty of 20 years imprisonment reflects the gravity of the offending conduct.
A successful prosecution of this offence will require evidence of the unlawful acquisition or disposal of firearms on at least three occasions over a 12-month period. This offence will represent one of the key tools in the fight against the illegal firearms trade in the territory and Australia as a whole.
Finally, the bill also creates a new category of licence—paintball marker adult firearms licence. As members have highlighted in their speeches, the applicant will need to satisfy the registrar that they have participated in at least four paintball competitions before a paintball marker licence can be issued. This will ensure that only those adults who can show a genuine interest in and commitment to the sport of paintball will be in a position to lawfully acquire and possess paintball markers.
While minors will not be able to own paintball markers, they will be able to participate in the sport, with the written consent of their legal guardian, as a result of