Is it legal to own a gun in Australia? The short answer is yes… sort of, sometimes.
The gun laws in Australia allow you to own a gun as long as you have the requisite documents. Below we’ll look at everything you need to abide by Australian gun laws, specifically focused on the laws in Queensland.
How We Got to Where We Are
Without embarking on too much of a history lesson, Australia experienced a dramatic shift in its gun laws following a tragic mass shooting at Port Arthur in 1996.
Before that event, gun laws around Australia were significantly more relaxed, and obtaining a weapon (in particular a gun with higher or faster firing capacity) was significantly easier than it is now.
However following the Port Arthur shooting, Prime Minister Howard lead a significant foray into the world of gun laws. The result was a scheme which saw gun laws remodeled around Australia, and a significant reduction in gun ownership generally.
That’s how we got to the current system.
Documentation Required to Own a Gun in Australia
The first document that you need is a weapons licence. You must be at least eleven years of age; persons aged 11 to 17 can apply for a minor’s licence.
For traditional licences, you must be at least 18 years old. You must also have somewhere safe and secure to store your weapon, and you must undergo a safety training course. You will also need to provide a “genuine reason” for obtaining a weapons licence.
Your genuine reason can be for pest control, target practice on a shooting range, animal welfare or rural occupation (if you have a ranch or are a park ranger), hunting recreationally, or if you collect firearms. You will have to provide proof of that genuine reason when you apply for your weapons licence.
Interestingly, “self defence” is not an accepted genuine reason, putting the Australian position in stark contrast to many US pro-gun arguments.
To obtain your licence there can be no violent criminal offences, fraud charges, paperwork perjury, or illicit substance use charges on your record.
Weapons licences in Australia are not only for guns—you also need one if you want to own a crossbow, paintball gun, or certain types of knives as well. Regardless of the weapon itself, the gun laws of Australia require that you obtain a weapons licence before you obtain your weapon. This is true for the purchase of a firearm as well.
There are also nine different classifications of weapons licences in Australia, so you must make sure you’re applying for the one that corresponds to the type of weapon you intend to purchase. We discuss these a bit more below.
As you might expect, the acceptable “genuine reason” for each category is a bit different, so you’re not likely to get a machine gun licence for keeping the ‘roos off your property.
You might think that having your licence then allows you to go out and buy a gun, but nope – you’ll also need another key document: a “permit to acquire” (PTA).
What’s the Difference Between a PTA and a Weapons Licence?
A weapons licence shows that you have the proper physical and mental fitness, reason, training, and storage capacities for owning a firearm. Queensland residents must also get a PTA for each weapon they purchase.
So while an individual only needs to have one up-to-date weapons licence, you also need a corresponding PTA for each weapon you own.
This allows each weapon owned by each person to be tracked rather than a single licence allowing someone to collect a large stockpile of weapons.
How Much Does a Gun Licence Cost in Australia?
Typical weapons licences in Australia cost about $150. The application fee itself is $110.95, and the fee for applying to own a handgun, shotgun, or center-action rifle is $36.65. There are dozens of different categories of weapon licence applications ranging from if you’re an armourer, theatrical prop director, or heirloom restorer.
You must also show certification of having passed a several-day safety training course. Be mindful that the training course will increase the cost of the gun licence process.
You must wait twenty-eight days for the government to complete a background check once you’ve submitted all your paperwork to get a weapons licence (application, fee, proof of genuine reason, safety training certificate, safe storage declaration).
Once you’ve cleared the background check, you’re all set to apply for a PTA.
Who Cannot Own a Gun in Australia?
Certain criminal offences bar you from being eligible to own a gun in Australia.
Not every criminal charge is disqualifying. Only specific charges, such as being listed as a respondent in a domestic violence order, will prevent you from obtaining a weapons licence. If you have ever been charged with having a weapon illegally, you can say goodbye to your chances of getting a licence.
You cannot own a gun in Queensland if you have been convicted of fraud or anything related to dishonesty charges, including theft. If you have ever been charged with violence against yourself or anyone else, even the threat of violence, you cannot carry a gun. Other offences that prevent you from being able to carry a gun or any weapon include sexual offences, associations with organized crime or gangs, terrorist activities or associations, robbery, and any charges of misuse of illegal drugs.
What Types of Guns Are Legal in Australia?
Theoretically there are a fair range of weapons still lawful in Australia. In practice, however, getting a licence to own some of these categories of weapon is not straightforward.
That said, technically the categories you could apply for in your licence are:
- Category A are shotguns, rimfire rifles, and air rifles, not including semi-automatic or lever-action rifles or shotguns.
- Category B includes lever-action shotguns with a magazine capacity of five rounds, bolt-action and pump-action rifles, and muzzleloading weapons built after 1901.
- Category C is for pump-action or self-loading shotguns with a magazine of five rounds or less, and it’s for semi-automatic rimfire rifles with a magazine capacity of no more than ten rounds. Those allowed to apply for a Category C weapons licence are farm workers, clay target shooters, firearms collectors, firearms instructors, firearms safety officers, and primary producers. Primary producers work in mining, forestry, logging, fishing, and farming.
- Category D includes Category C weapons with magazines exceeding the limited number of rounds. However, government officials and primary producers are the only ones allowed to carry these.
- Category H is for handguns.
- Category R is for restricted weapons, including military-grade machine guns, fully automatic rifles, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, and anti-tank weaponry. You’re not likely getting this licence any time soon.
Can you Carry a Gun in Australia?
Just because you have your licence and a PTA and a weapon does not mean you can walk around with it anywhere you want.
In Queensland it’s an offence to carry a gun, and a number of other weapons, in public (outside the obvious exceptions such as law enforcement).
Your weapons licence generally only allows you to own a weapon for the specific declared and approved purpose – none of which are “walking around with a gun”.
Gun Laws in Australia, Conclusion
Fundamentally the gun laws in Australia are designed to ensure you have a legitimate reason to own a weapon, an appropriate background to be permitted to own a weapon, and sufficient training and safety protocols to do so.