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STATE & TERRITORY LEGISLATION
State and Territory Legislative Requirements When Collecting, Buying, Selling or Trading Ammunition
By Gerard Dutton , ACCA National Legislation Officer
At the 2007 ACCA AGM, I was nominated for the position of ACCA National Legislation Officer, which I accepted. I have therefore prepared the following information for the benefit of all ACCA members within Australia and this follows on from David Groundwater's article on pages 18 and 19 of Journal 111. My article contains more detailed information than David's and it relates to the specific laws and regulations in each state and territory in Australia for collecting, buying, selling or trading ammunition.
One thing that became obvious as I researched this article was that the legislation relating to collecting ammunition varied quite a bit between states/territories, despite Australia apparently having "uniform" national gun laws. Therefore the onus is upon each of us to become conversant with the applicable laws where we live to ensure we do not unwittingly do the wrong thing when we collect, buy, sell or trade. Just like any organisation, if a small minority of members do the wrong thing, whether deliberate or not, it brings disrepute upon all the other members. ACCA is no different in this regard. In fact due to the negative perception of anything firearm related the media continually presents to the general public, we need to be extra vigilant to ensure our collecting interest/hobby/passion is not impinged upon by further unnecessary laws or regulations.
In order to collate accurate information for members, I sent the same list of questions to the eight Australian Firearms Registries and asked if they could respond. I've listed their responses on a state/territory basis for ease of reference. Depending on where you live, you can see exactly what applies. The answers provided to me came in a variety of forms; sometimes I was supplied excerpts from the actual legislation that applied, other times I was provided direct answers to my questions. In any case, I then made numerous follow up enquiries to clarify some answers to make available as much information to members as I could.
Of course I am well aware that the information I have asked to be provided from the various Registries may not apply to the personal circumstances of every ACCA member. There is also no doubt that some of the responses I was given will undoubtedly raise other questions from collectors due to their own situation. This is why I have also provided Firearms Registry contact details and webpage addresses which will allow you to peruse the Firearms Act or other laws which relate to collecting/possessing ammunition. You can print a copy of the Firearms Act or other related legislation direct from the relevant website. All the websites should have a search facility to help you find the correct legislation, by typing in "Firearms Act" or "ammunition" and so on. You can also pay for a hard copy from the Government Printer as long as you know exactly what you're after.
If the information you seek is not articulated there, it may well be that this is covered by conditions stipulated in a separate Authority. Some jurisdictions issue a separate "Authority to Collect Ammunition" or similar, issued by the Police Commissioner or their delegate and this may or may not have various conditions attached to it. This doesn't replace a shooters licence but is an addition to it (if you own any firearms, as a number of ACCA members do.) The conditions in the Authority often stipulate requirements that are not spelled out in the Firearms Act and/or Regulations. Keep in mind that different conditions may apply to different collectors, depending on individual circumstances. The basic conditions found on these authorities are only a starting point.
As mentioned, I have included contact details for the Firearms Registries in each state/territory with phone numbers and sometimes the names of the persons most conversant in the laws pertaining to collecting ammunition. As most of us have experienced at some time or another when contacting government departments, not everyone who works in any particular area knows the exact information you are seeking. Also, successive phone calls to the same area but to different employees can sometimes unwittingly result in contradictory information given out which can prove frustrating. Providing the names (where possible) of one or two member/s who are familiar with the relevant laws and the phone numbers of each Firearms Registry should ensure consistent information is given to ACCA members when making enquiries. One suggestion I have if you speak to any government departments regarding any issues with your cartridge collecting, is to make a note of the time, date and the person you spoke with. If down the track a problem arises, it's much easier to resolve it if you can provide this information.
One issue I think is very worthwhile spelling out to members is the fact that holding a shooters licence does not automatically allow you to collect any ammunition you would like. Your shooters licence, regardless of where you live in Australia, only allows you to possess ammunition for the firearms you are registered as owning! Therefore if you are a shooter who only owns a .22LR calibre bolt action rifle and a 12 gauge double barrel shotgun, you are only entitled to possess ammunition in .22LR calibre and 12 gauge. In the previous example, if you also possessed a box of cartridges in .22WMR, .30-30 Winchester, 20 gauge or even a single cartridge in something obscure and obsolete like .25-25 Stevens or .38 Extra Long rimfire and so on (the list is endless…), you are committing an offence. The solution is straightforward however – you merely need to check what is required in your own jurisdiction and make application to be able to collect/buy/sell a wider range of ammunition than is allowed by your firearms licence. I only make particular mention of this point as I'm sure some collectors (who own firearms and who have a shooters licence) when they start collecting cartridges overlook this fact. Don't be put off by this requirement, just ensure you arrange the appropriate licence or authority that covers your collecting interests.
Another issue worth mentioning is that if you sell collectors ammunition, by law you should satisfy yourself that the person you are selling to have the appropriate authority to possess that ammunition – ie visually inspect their licence or authority. If you buy ammunition, by law they should ensure that you have the appropriate authority to possess that ammunition. If you are trading, then you both need to satisfy yourselves to this effect. This is usually not a problem when dealing with members of ACCA because their paperwork should be already sorted. However, do not take this for granted! The onus will always be on the individual to check the bonafides of anyone he deals with, whether buying, selling or trading. This might seem a pain to do every time, however it will be made easier – for ACCA members anyway – as ACCA will ultimately have copies of every members authority or licence.
I'm guessing that most, if not all members of ACCA at some point or another buy, sell or trade all types, calibres and gauges of ammunition, whether you actually collect those items or not. If your licence or authority doesn't allow you to do this, then to legally protect yourself, apply to have your collecting status changed. To make things as straightforward and as easy for yourself as possible, apply to collect/buy/sell ALL types of sporting and military small arms ammunition, if you don't already have this stipulated.
At the 2007 AGM, our membership officer Lindsay Filbey mentioned that everyone needs to provide a copy of their licence or authority to him to keep on file. The reason is due to the aforementioned requirement and this will obviously reduce the 'red tape' at ACCA meetings by negating the need to visually see everyone's authority every time when buying, selling or trading. In reality of course this doesn't happen at ACCA meetings. In an ideal world, every ACCA member would have a blanket authority to collect all types of ammunition and with the ACCA membership officer also keeping copies of every member's authority, there would be no need to check/view each others authorities at ACCA meetings. Having stated that, if you haven't already done so, please photocopy your licence/authority and mail it to Lindsay – his address can be found in each ACCA Journal and on the ACCA website: www.australiancartridgecollectors.org
Remember that common sense should always prevail in regards to storage. If you have shown you have taken reasonable steps to ensure you have the correct authority and keep your collection locked away in one fashion or another separate to any firearms you might own (whether in sturdy locked containers, a locked room without windows etc) you shouldn't strike any difficulties with your local police.
As a final note, neither the author of this article nor ACCA assume responsibility for the information contained within. Obviously great care was taken during the preparation of this article to provide as complete, accurate and up to date information as possible. But the information provided here is merely an abridged version of what is contained in the applicable Acts and Regulations. Due to space considerations when preparing this article, this information should be considered a starting point only. I would highly recommend procuring for yourself a copy of all the appropriate legislation for your own reference – never forget that it is your responsibility to do the right thing and ignorance of the laws and other applicable legislation is not a defence if it is deemed you had done something unlawful, whether you were consciously aware of the fact or not. Additionally, laws and regulations are never static, they change and are modified on an ongoing basis. Try to keep abreast of the legislation that applies to your own collecting interests.
The list of questions I sent out to each state and territory are set out below (in blue). Their responses, on a state by state/territory basis follow (in black). I hope all this information assists ACCA members and if you still have any queries, please contact your local Firearms Registry for further clarification.
I wish to thank and acknowledge the staff at the various Firearms Registries and other departments who provided the information required for this article. Their help was greatly appreciated.
To view the responses for your state or territory, click on the appropriate section in the table above: