Owners drop guns Unregistered firearms turn up at dealers under amnesty
T O W N S V I L L E f i r e a r m s dealers have started taking possession of unregistered pistols and rifles being handed in under the Federal Government’s weapons amnesty.
The three- month grace period during which owners of unregistered firearms can hand them in without prosecution is the first national amnesty since the one sparked by the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. The latest amnesty, which began on July 1, will run until September 30.
Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan announced the “no questions asked” amnesty amid growing concern about illegal weapons flowing into Australia from overseas and the rising threat of terror.
The Government believes there are as many as 260,000 illegal firearms in Australia.
In Townsville, owners of unregistered pistols and rifles have a selection of seven licensed firearm dealers where they can hand in weapons.
Joanne Elliott, from Townsville Gun Shop, said five firearms had been handed in since the start of the amnesty on Saturday.
A representative from Halls Firearms on Charters Towers Rd said two firearms had been handed in.
In Winton, men’s clothing outfitter and firearms dealer Bernie Searle has had two rifles brought in. He said the first was a Brno .22 rifle with five- shot magazine.
“It could do with a good clean,” Mr Searle said of the early model Czechoslovakian- made rifle which first came on the market in 1956.
“If they want it registered I’ll hold it here until the paperwork is done. If they don’t want it we cut it up with a drop saw,” he said.
Ms Elliott said that under the amnesty guidelines owners could apply for a licence while the firearm in question was held in a secure place by an accredited dealer. “If they don’t want it we can on- sell it or it can be broken up and rendered useless,” she said.
Former Townsville saddler and Kirwan resident Geoff Tarring is secretary of the Queensland branch of the Sporting Shooter’s Association of Australia.
He said the amnesty was “a good thing” but added it was debatable that it would do anything to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.
“It is illegal firearms coming in from overseas that we ( as an organisation) are most concerned about,” he said.
Inspector Andrew Smith, from the Queensland Police Service Firearms Amnesty Unit, said people were allowed to surrender weapons to police stations, but it was preferred they go to dealers.
“We ask that you make contact before bringing a weapon to a police station or a dealer and that you make an appointment,” he said.
Insp Smith said under the amnesty guidelines firearms brought in could be registered for free. The last Queensland firearm amnesty in 2013 netted 22,200 unregistered weapons. Queensland with a population of 4.7 million people had 190,000 registered firearms, he said.
“So far this national amnesty is looking very promising even though it is early days,” he said.
Anyone wanting information about the amnesty should phone 1800 909 826.
OUT OF SIGHT: Winton’s Bernie Searle with a rifle handed in during the national gun amnesty.