Understanding Firearms and Weapons Offences in NSW

This article explores various offences, their penalties, and potential defences within the NSW legal system

Firearms and weapons offences in New South Wales (NSW) are taken very seriously by law enforcement and the courts. Governed by the Firearms Act 1996 and the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998, offences range from unauthorised possession or use to trafficking firearms or weapons.

Firearms Offences

  1. Unauthorised Possession or Use: It is an offence to possess or use a firearm without a valid licence or permit. The severity of the offence and associated penalties varies depending on the type of firearm. For instance, unauthorised possession of a pistol carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
  2. Possession of Unregistered Firearms: Firearms must be registered under the Firearms Act. Possessing an unregistered firearm can lead to a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
  3. Safekeeping Offences: Firearm owners are required to safely store their firearms. Failing to adhere to the prescribed storage requirements can result in a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment and/or a fine of 50 penalty units.
  4. Use of Firearm Under the Influence: Using a firearm under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a severe offence, with a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment and/or 50 penalty units.
  5. Trafficking Firearms: Illegally selling, buying, or transferring firearms is considered trafficking. This offence is punishable by a maximum of 20 years imprisonment if involving five or more firearms.

Weapons Offences

  1. Possession of Prohibited Weapons: The possession, use, buying, or selling of prohibited weapons without a permit is an offence under the Weapons Prohibition Act 1998. The list of prohibited weapons includes items such as flick knives, laser pointers, and knuckle dusters. The maximum penalty is 14 years imprisonment.
  2. Possession of Dangerous Articles Other Than Firearms: Possessing dangerous items with intent to commit an indictable offence carries a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment.
  3. Selling or Hiring of Prohibited Weapons: The unauthorised sale or hire of prohibited weapons is an offence carrying a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.


The law provides for a number of defences to firearms and weapons offences. These include:

  1. Duress and Necessity: These defences apply when the defendant was compelled to commit the offence due to threats of harm or in an emergency situation where breaking the law was the only viable option.
  2. Lawful Excuse: This defence can be used if the defendant can prove they had a legitimate reason for the possession or use of the firearm or weapon.
  3. Lack of Knowledge: A defendant may argue they did not know they were in possession of the weapon or firearm. However, this defence requires substantial proof to be successful.
  4. Mental Illness: This defence applies if the defendant can demonstrate they were suffering from a significant mental illness at the time the offence was committed.


Firearms and weapons offences in NSW carry significant penalties, reflecting the seriousness with which these offences are treated. It is crucial for individuals to understand the law surrounding these offences and the potential defences available. However, every case is unique, and any person facing these charges should seek expert legal advice to understand their position and explore possible defence strategies.