Budget to include $161m for national firearms register

Brandon How

A national firearms register will be developed by Australia’s criminal intelligence agency following a $161.3 million commitment from the federal government.

The funding will be included in the federal Budget next month, with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) to use it to build and subsequently administer the register over four years.

National Cabinet — comprised of the Prime Minister, state premiers and territory chief ministers — committed to develop the register in December 2023 following consultation on potential implementation options.

A firearms register was first recommended in the National Firearms Agreement signed after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.

The register will replace the ACIC-operated Australian Firearms Information Network, which facilitates national level information sharing on firearms entering the country and moving between states but is not itself a licensing system.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the decision to implement a National Firearms Register “is the most significant improvement in Australia’s firearms management systems in almost 30 years and will keep our community and police safer”.

He said it aims to enable law enforcement to assess firearms risks by “providing frontline police officers with near real-time information on firearms, parts, and owners” that will also be linked through the National Criminal Intelligence System.

Although the new registry will be linked with other relevant police and government information, Queensland’s register reportedly needs to be fixed before it could participate in a national regime.

According to the consultation paper released in April, the register may also include an electronic verification system for verifying licences and permits as well as potentially enabling electronic submission and management of information regarding firearm dealers’ stock.

Options to develop a register was led by Australian Police Ministers at the request of the cross-jurisdictional National Cabinet in response to the deaths of two police officer and a member of the public following a terrorist shooting in Wieambilla in December 2022.

Investigations into the incident found that one of the perpetrators had been able to purchase ammunition in Queensland under a suspended NSW firearms licence. The firearms dealers were unable to check the validity of interstate licences.

Mr Dreyfus said the “tragic events at Wieambilla in December 2022 were a catalyst for progressing this outstanding reform from the 1996 Port Arthur massacre response”.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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