The information contained in this article is up-to-date at the time of writing but is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. The SSAA is continuously working to improve legislation for our members so be sure to review any possible law changes on an ongoing basis. It’s the responsibility of all licensed firearm owners to comply with the laws in their state or territory as well as those states or territories they are visiting
by Rod Pascoe
Going bush for a hunt is something most hunters regularly look forward to. However, there can be uncertainty regarding obligations when carrying firearms on hunting trips and removed from home safe storage facilities.
All licensed shooters are familiar with the requirement to keep firearms safely stored and to prevent them falling into the hands of unlicensed people. There are also, in most states and territories, special rules regarding transporting firearms in your vehicle. Each state and territory have their own unique Firearms Act and Regulations but with the same general underlying theme: You will be charged with an offence (breach of the Act) if you allow your firearm to be lost or stolen and/or it comes into the possession of an unlicensed person.
The below highlights the various state and territory firearms regulations, accompanied with guidelines, if available.
New South Wales
All licence holders in NSW for category A and B firearms must comply with the general requirements in Section 39 of the Firearms Act 1996. The licence holder must take all reasonable precautions to ensure the firearm in their possession is safely kept; that it’s not lost or stolen and doesn’t come into the possession of a person who isn’t authorised by a licence or permit to possess or use it. The Firearms Registry fact sheet states that the Commissioner (of Police) has determined that all reasonable precautions have been met if category A and B firearms are conveyed in the same manner as category C and D firearms, and that is firearms must be conveyed unloaded and ammunition kept in a locked container separate from the firearms. They must be rendered temporarily incapable of being fired (eg, by removing the bolt/firing mechanism or the use of triggerlocks) or must be kept in a locked container that is properly secured to, or is within the vehicle. This requirement doesn’t apply to a firearm that’s being used when conveyed in a vehicle such as when spotlighting.
While not in the person’s physical possession, firearms must be stored in a securely closed container with the bolt removed or a triggerlock fitted or in a locked container. The container must be stored out of sight in a locked room or locked in the boot of a vehicle, or if the vehicle does not have a boot, locked in the vehicle out of sight. Firearms must be kept unloaded at all times unless the firearm is being used. Section 95 of the Weapons Regulation 2016 refers to the storage of firearms not in a licensee’s physical possession when away from secure storage facilities. If a suitably licensed person is visiting Queensland from another state or from overseas and is unable to reasonably return their firearm to their safe storage facility, all firearms, must be stored unloaded in either a securely closed container with the bolt removed or with a triggerlock fitted or in a locked container.
Storage in or on vehicles also has specific requirements: Section 96 of the Weapons Regulation 2016 states that a person in control of a firearm must ensure it isn’t placed in or on a vehicle unless:
1. If the vehicle has a lockable boot, the firearm is locked in the boot; otherwise:
it is locked in a metal container fixed to the vehicle or in a securely closed container that is out of sight in the vehicle.
2. The metal container and anything on or attached to it must not suggest that a firearm is inside.
3. A person in control of a firearm (whether or not the person has custody of it) must ensure it is not left in an unlocked vehicle if the vehicle is not being attended by someone licensed to possess the firearm.
Apart from the provisions of the Explosives Regulations 2017, there are no specific requirements for travelling with ammunition. The regulations do however, require ammunition be stored separately from firearms in a secured area and not be accessible to unauthorised persons.
While guidelines are aimed at minimising risk, licence holders should consider all factors that may contribute to the firearms being transported in a manner that is not secure or in a way that presents a danger.
In most circumstances firearms should be transported in the following manner:
Firearms should be transported in a padded cover or hard case, unloaded and preferably rendered inoperable. While being transported, firearms and ammunition should be kept out of sight and stored in separate receptacles that are either secured to the inside of your vehicle or in a lockable component of your vehicle and ammunition should be stored separately from the firearms in a part of the vehicle not readily accessible by an unauthorised person. A lockable glovebox would suffice provided the key to the glovebox is kept securely by the holder of the firearm licence and cannot be accessed by persons unauthorised to possess ammunition or firearms.
The advice above has been provided as a guide only and does not override storage requirements imposed by other regulatory frameworks. For example, the storage requirements imposed under the Wildlife (Game) Regulations 2012 when hunting in a deer habitat. The Victorian Firearm Safety Foundation has further information and practical tips on its website regarding the safe and secure transportation of firearms, including by road, rail and air.
Licence holders are encouraged to take a commonsense approach to ensure firearms are not lost or stolen. In particular, care should be taken to avoid identifiers of the possible existence of firearms such as firearm stickers on cars.
Apart from Firearms Regulation 11A(1) 1974 – that relates to secure storage, at the time of writing Western Australia has no specific regulation regarding travelling with firearms other than a reference to vehicles on the police website. Never leave a firearm unattended in a car. It is an offence to do so. Refer to the police website’s brochure ‘Firearm Storage Requirements’.
A permit is required for interstate travellers with firearms, and to buy ammo your firearm licence and a print out of the firearms you own are required, as you can only buy for the calibres you have registered.
When travelling with firearms you should take precautions to minimise the likelihood of unauthorised access or theft. Give careful thought to how you will secure your firearm before leaving on your trip and take appropriate triggerlocks, chains or padlocks with you.
If a person, in the course of using a firearm for a purpose authorised by their firearms licence, is not residing at, or occupying, the premises at which the firearm is ordinarily kept, the person must, when the firearm is not in actual use, secure the firearm and any ammunition in their possession for use in that firearm, by using the best means reasonably available in the circumstances. This only applies if the person is, in the course of using the firearm, not residing at, or occupying, the premises at which the firearm is ordinarily kept, on a short-term, temporary basis.
As for transporting ammunition: If a vehicle in which a firearm or ammunition is being transported has a boot, glovebox, cupboard or other compartment in which the firearm or ammunition may be locked; or a container fixed securely to the vehicle (either internally or externally) in which the firearm or ammunition may be locked, the person transporting the firearm or ammunition must ensure that the firearm or ammunition is securely locked in the boot, glovebox, cupboard or other compartment or container.
If both a firearm and ammunition are being transported in the vehicle at the same time and the vehicle has more than one such compartment or container ‑ ensure that the firearm and ammunition are secured separately unless it’s not reasonably practicable for the person to do so, or the firearm or ammunition would not then be secured by using the best means reasonably available. Furthermore, a person transporting a firearm in a vehicle must not leave the vehicle unattended unless the person has a reasonable excuse in the circumstances to do so and the vehicle is securely locked and the vehicle is left unattended for no longer than is reasonably necessary.
When conveying your firearms or ammunition from one place to another, any magazines must be unloaded, ammunition must be in a closed container completely separate from the firearm, which must also be unloaded and either be in a locked receptacle or the bolt removed and kept in a closed container, completely separate from the firearm. Alternatively, an action/triggerlock is fitted that prevents the firearm from being used.
There are some exceptions to these requirements as outlined in Section 104(2) of the Firearms Act 1996.
It must be also noted that the Act, Section 84, subsections (1), (2) and (3) sets general expectations for the safekeeping of firearms, firearms parts and ammunition from loss or theft by utilising the best available option appropriate to the circumstance.
Australian Capital Territory
A person who transports a firearm must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the firearm is stored safely while the firearm is being transported. A firearm must not be loaded with, and must be kept separate from, any ammunition; and if the firearm is being transported using a vehicle other than a motorcycle be rendered temporarily incapable of being fired, for example by removing the bolt or the firing mechanism or by using a restraining device such as a triggerlock.
Firearms must be stored in a securely locked container that is securely attached to the vehicle or a securely locked compartment within the vehicle. If the firearm is being transported using a motorcycle - it must be stored in a lockable hard-case pannier, luggage box or other container appropriate for transporting the firearm and is not able to be seen by a person who is not responsible for transporting the firearm.
Where a firearm is being conveyed in a motor vehicle and the motor vehicle is left unattended at a place away from where the firearm is normally stored or secured, then the firearm is to be placed in the boot, the cargo carrying area or some other lockable compartment of the vehicle or is to be secured by means of a firearm securing device.
The firearm is to be completely hidden from open view and ammunition for the firearm is to be placed in a lockable compartment of the vehicle (other than the compartment in which the firearm is placed) or in a locked container secured in or on the vehicle. The person in charge of the vehicle must take all reasonable steps to ensure that, while the vehicle remains unattended, the firearm is kept safely in the vehicle and is not stolen or removed and does not come into the possession of a person who is not licensed to be in possession of the firearm.
The NT has mutual recognition with all states and territories for visiting interstate recreational licence holders in respect to category A and B firearms only. This only applies for up to three months. Persons staying in the NT for longer than three months must apply for a Temporary Permit from the NT Police.
While the Firearms Act, Regulations and guidelines differ, what’s expected by the authorities is that you’re taking every reasonable precaution to prevent your firearm being lost or stolen which, when you read the regulations, is the chargeable offence.
If you intend travelling interstate with your firearms, you should check on the regulations in the state or territory you intend visiting to make sure you understand the rules. While most states and territories offer reciprocal rights to interstate visitors with firearms it’s always a good idea to check before travelling. Hunters should also make themselves aware of the laws relating to hunting. Game licensing and wildlife protection requirements, bag limits, seasons and eligible species are defined by most state and territory governments.
Firearm management around the campsite is important. Empty firearms should be safely stored at all times and not accessible to unauthorised persons. Practise good housekeeping when entering or leaving camp with firearms and always reassure fellow campers that your firearms are cleared and safe by demonstrating the clearing actions in front of them. This is especially important if you have members in your group that are unfamiliar with firearms.