DATE: 28 February 2019
AUTHOR: Audit Office of NSW
Firearms used by the general public in NSW are regulated through the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) (the Act) and the Firearms Regulation 2017 (NSW) (Regulation). In October 2018, there were over 237,500 firearm licence holders and just over one million registered firearms in NSW.
The Act and Regulation reflect the National Firearms Agreement reached by all Australian jurisdictions in 1996 and confirmed in 2017. This Agreement sets out the minimum requirements for regulating firearms. The Act recognises that possessing and using firearms are privileges conditional on the overriding need to ensure public safety.
The NSW Police Force (NSW Police), which includes the Firearms Registry (the Registry), is responsible for administering the Act and Regulation, and for operating the NSW firearms licensing and registration scheme. Relevant third parties such as approved clubs, firearms dealers and shooting ranges also carry some administrative and oversight responsibilities under the Act and Regulation.
The role of the Registry includes administering the following requirements under the Act and Regulation that are relevant to this audit:
- licence conditions
- licence suspensions and revocations
- initiating seizure of firearms
- assessing permits to acquire firearms
- administering the good reason test
- maintaining the register of firearms
- approving alternative safe storage arrangements.
The Registry’s other activities identified in this report support its regulatory responsibilities under the NSW Government framework for better regulation.
This audit assessed how well the Registry administers the requirements of the Act and Regulation for existing firearms licence holders. To effectively administer these requirements, the Registry should have:
- a reliable database that supports the firearms licensing and registration scheme
- appropriate risk-based policies and procedures for the Registry’s operation that are consistent with the Act and Regulation.
We did not assess the Registry’s processes in assessing and issuing firearms licences to new applicants or renewing licences of existing licence holders. We also did not examine the administrative actions conducted by police officers who are not part of the Registry.