Police Minister Bob Wiese said the Coalition Government's proposed firearm legislation was a milestone in helping to create a safer community.
Introducing the legislation and draft regulations into Parliament today, Mr Wiese said the Government's 'total firearms package' addressed all the resolutions made under the uniform national gun plan and further strengthened Western Australia's already strict firearm legislation.
"The Government has created a total package aimed at gun reform in this State - the most substantial changes since the current Act was first created in 1973 - and reforms that will complement the measures already in place," he said.
"Operating alongside the national gun laws - which ban automatic and semi-automatic firearms and curtail mail-order firearms - these changes will be a major step towards even greater firearm safety in WA."
Mr Wiese said the proposed legislation and draft regulations would not prevent the possession and use of firearms and ammunition by those who had a legitimate occupational, recreational and sporting need to possess and use firearms.
The Coalition's gun legislation contained more than 40 amendments to the WA Firearms Act, including provision for secure storage facilities for firearms, new guidelines on licensing and registration of gun ownership and increased penalties for breaches of the Firearms Act. The changes included:
+ increasing the penalty for possession of an unlicensed firearm from a $300 fine or six months' imprisonment up to $2,000 or six months' imprisonment;
+ a 28-day cooling off period for first time applicants;
+ better training and licensing procedures;
+ the creation of an appeals tribunal for gun owners; and -
+ establishment of a Firearms Advisory Committee to monitor the impact of the Act and its administration.
Mr Wiese said the proposed legislation and the current gun laws in WA addressed the major reforms outlined in the uniform national gun laws.
A permanent amnesty to allow for handing in unlicensed firearms without prosecution already existed and the national register was an extension of the registration system that currently operated in WA.
The Minister said the amendments to the State legislation following the national agreement included:
+ raising the lawful age to obtain a firearms licence from 16 to 18 years;
+ applicants for a firearm licence having to have a genuine reason that satisfied the Police Commissioner; and -
+ licence applicants having to undertake an accredited training course.
Mr Wiese said there had been more than 800 public submissions on the proposed legislation from community groups, government agencies, firearms owners and professional bodies with numerous suggestions being reflected in the legislation.
"This whole legislative process is about creating a safer environment out there in the community by ensuring firearm ownership and usage are properly and adequately regulated," he said.
The Minister said the compensation/amnesty program for prohibited firearms would begin in WA on October 1 and would run for a period of 12 months.
Mr Wiese said in relation to handing in of firearms, the collection points would be at local police stations throughout the State and firearm owners would receive a receipt from police. A compensation payment would be sent later.
"The 12-month compensation/amnesty period provides firearm owners with the option to go through the compensation process when their annual firearm registration is up for renewal," he said.
"Of course, firearm owners can hand in their weapons at any time during this period, but rather than swamp police with firearms, it is intended to stagger this process and therefore not reduce the level of police service in other areas."
Mr Wiese also encouraged those people with unlicensed or unwanted firearms to take advantage of the ongoing Police Service amnesty and hand in their firearms. Compensation would only apply to restricted or prohibited firearms.
Media contact: Mark Thompson on 222 9595