22 Oct, MELBOURNE –
Australia will hold a national gun amnesty in 2017 to allow citizens to hand over illegal firearms without facing penalties.
The Law, Crime and Community Safety Council (LCCSC), whereby representatives from Australia’s six states and two territories meet to establish a national focus on fighting crime, unanimously agreed to hold the amnesty at a meeting in Melbourne on Friday.
Michael Keenan, Australia’s Minister for Justice, said that in addition to the amnesty the government would continue to pursue a minimum sentence of five years’ imprisonment for gun smuggling offenses.
“The illegal trafficking of firearms is a deadly crime and just one illegal firearm is a huge threat to the safety of Australians,” Keenan told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.
“The amnesty will provide an opportunity for those individuals who for whatever reason are in possession of an unregistered firearm to hand it in without fear of being prosecuted.”
Chris Dawson, chief executive of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), said Australia’s illegal firearms trade was a serious problem.
“Criminals use weapons for both intimidation and use in crimes and one illegal firearm in the Australian community is one too many,” Dawson said on Friday.
The amnesty will be the second scheme of such a nature in Australia’s history, with the previous gun buyback in 1996 claiming 1 million guns as the Australian government outlawed semi-automatic rifles following a mass-shooting at Port Arthur that killed 35 people.
The LCCSC failed to reach a unanimous agreement on the controversial Adler shotgun, a lever action shotgun which can fire up to eight times before being reloaded, meaning an importation ban on the weapon will remain in place.
“In the absence of a unanimous agreement amongst all jurisdictions, the prohibition on the importation of lever-action shotguns that the commonwealth government has put in place will remain,” Keenan said.
Shooters and farmers had argued that the Adler shotgun was not as dangerous as was thought and that farmers needed the gun to protect their crops from invasive species. (Xinhua)