Firearms have the potential to cause serious harm or death. Those that are high calibre and /or have a high rate of fire pose a particular threat to public safety. As such New South Wales has developed a very stringent set of laws which aim to monitor, regulate and in many cases prohibit access to firearms. Falling foul of these rules is treated very seriously. 

The effects of a conviction for a firearm offence can go beyond the imposition of a sentence by the Court. For instance, certain offences can result in the revocation of your firearms licence. This can have flow on effects for those who need to be able to lawfully possess firearms as a part of their employment. It can also impact on your likelihood of being able to re-apply for a firearms licence in the future.

If you are charged with any offence involving a firearm it is strongly recommended that you contact a defence lawyer with experience in dealing with these matters. For a free consultation contact Hearn Legal.


In order to possess or use a firearm, you must be appropriately licensed or hold an appropriate permit. If you either do not have a licence/permit, or use a firearm in breach of the terms of a licence/permit, you are committing an offence. Ordinarily this charge will be dealt with in the Local Court, however the prosecution can elect to have the charge dealt with in the District Court in some cases.

While the absence of a license or permit is a simple matter for the prosecution to prove, often proving possession or use of a firearm is a more complex task. If you are charged with possessing or using a firearm it is advisable to speak to an experienced lawyer about your options.

Maximum penalty: 5 years imprisonment


Firearms that are defined as ‘pistols or ‘prohibited’ can only be possessed or used in accordance with a license or permit. Prohibited firearms include items such as machine guns, canons and large magazine shotguns. The penalty for unauthorised possession of these items is much heavier than for ordinary guns. This is to reflect the public interest in limiting and monitoring the existence and possession of dangerous weapons in the community.

This offence will ordinarily be dealt with in the Local Court, but the prosecution can elect to have it dealt with in the District Court. Regardless of which court deals with it, serious penalties including substantial gaol terms are likely upon conviction or plea of guilty. Accordingly, it is strongly suggested that you obtain legal advice promptly so that your options can be properly explored.

Maximum penalty: 14 years imprisonment


All firearms must be registered. To sell, purchase, possess or use an unregistered firearm is an offence. If the firearm is one which is defined as being ‘prohibited’ doing any of these things can atract a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. Firearms that are prohibited include items such as machine guns and large magazine shotguns. The heavier penalty reflects the increased public safety interest in monitoring the existence and possession of these dangerous weapons.

It is a defence to this charge if you (not being the owner of the firearm) did not know, or could not reasonably be expected to have known that the firearm was unregistered.

Maximum penalty: 5 years imprisonment

Maximum penalty: 14 years imprisonment (in the case of prohibited firearms)


Where a person possesses an unregistered firearm that they are neither licensed nor permitted to possess, they commit a serious offence. This offence requires the prosecution to prove a) that the firearms is unregistered and b) that you are unlicensed / unpermitted to possess it. 

Maximum penalty: 10 years imprisonment


This offence is simply a more serious version of that described above. It applies where any of the following circumstances exist:

  • There is more than one unregistered firearm, or

  • The unregistered firearm is a pistol, or

  • The unregistered firearm is a prohibited firearm

The heavier penalty reflects the strong public interest in protecting the community from the kind of gun crime that can be inflicted by handguns, high calibre and rapid fire weapons.

Maximum penalty: 14 years imprisonment


This offence is committed where are person is in possession of a loaded firearm/speargun in any of the following circumstances:

  • They are in a public place

  • They are in any other place and the firearm is carried in a way that endangers life

  • The firearm is fired near a public place

  • The firearm is carried in a manner likely to injure or endanger the safety of any person

  • The firearm is carried with disregard for the safety of any person

This section can be offended against in a number of ways with varying degrees of seriousness. The policy behind the offence is the protection of the community. Once fired, the final destination of a bullet is hard to predict. Accordingly, the Legislature has created heavy penalties for people who use or possess their firearms in a way which risks harm to members of the public, including themselves.

Maximum penalty: 10 years imprisonment


This is a very serious offence that can only be dealt with in the District Court. Sentences upon conviction result in substantial gaol terms. In order to prove this charge the prosecution must establish the following matters:

  • That the firearms was discharged

  • That it was discharged at a house our other building

  • That the action was done with reckless disregard for the safety on any person

The legislation makes it clear that no person needs to be in fact put in danger, only that the shooter foresaw some risk to the safety of a person and acted anyway. The shooter does not need to have had a particular person in mind, and foresight of the possibility of harm to any person who might have been present is sufficient.

​If this offence is committed during a public disorder event, or in the course of an organised criminal activity, the offence is 'aggravated' and carries a higher penalty as indicated above.

Maximum penalty: 14 years imprisonment
Maximum penalty: 16 years imprisonment (aggravated offence)


One of the most serious offences falling within the category of firearm offences is discharging, or attempting to discharge a firearm intending to cause grievous bodily harm. The most The reasons for this is clear, to recognise the grave risk of death and severe injury that accompanies the discharge of a firearm at a person, and to provide a deterrent to those who act with such intent.

The elements of this offence are straightforward. There must either be a voluntary pulling of the trigger (as opposed to an accident) or a voluntary attempt to pull the trigger. The intention of the person pulling the trigger must be to cause really serious injury. Because the offence can be committed through an attempt it is not necessary to prove that really serious injury was actually inflicted, only that it was intended.

Maximum penalty: 25 years imprisonment