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Tough new penalties for gun trafficking.



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Media Release SENATOR THE HON. CHRISTOPHER ELLISON Minister for Justice and Customs

Senator for Western Australia

E111/02 16 September 2002

TOUGH NEW PENALTIES FOR GUN TRAFFICKING

The trafficking of firearms across State borders will attract tough penalties under new national gun laws announced by Minister for Justice and Customs Senator Chris Ellison today.

“The Commonwealth Government has taken this strong action because of problems caused by insufficient State and territory penalties for firearms offences,” Senator Ellison said.

“The inadequacy of State and territory penalties against illegal firearm possession, sale and purchase is a major weakness in our efforts to combat illegal firearms trafficking.”

The proposed new offences will:

• make it a criminal offence for unlicensed persons to engage in the interstate sale or purchase of a firearm, or the transportation of a firearm across a State or territory border with the intent of selling the firearm. • attract a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $250,000. • help to prevent the spread of dangerous illegal weapons through the community.

Senator Ellison said while the endorsement by the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council of the National Firearm Trafficking Policy Agreement was an important step that went some way to encouraging greater consistency in State and territory legislation, the new Commonwealth offences would provide a significant deterrent to illegal firearms trafficking.

The Commonwealth offences for the first time will enable the prosecution of people engaged in the illegal interstate trade in firearms under Commonwealth law that will carry a more substantial penalty than if prosecuted under existing State or territory legislation.

The penalty for the new offences is consistent with the existing penalties for the illegal importation of a firearm under the Customs Act 1901 and reflects the serious nature of illegal firearms trafficking, particularly where it is engaged in by business enterprises for profit.

Senator Ellison said Australian Institute of Criminology research last month revealed that an average of 4,000 firearms were reported stolen across Australia every year - an average of 12 guns a day which could find their way into the black market and criminal hands.

“The new penalties demonstrate the commitment of the Commonwealth Government to tackling illegal firearms trafficking,” Senator Ellison said.

“Now is the time for State and territory governments to show that they are equally serious about cracking down on what represents a serious threat to community safety.”

The new penalties to target the illegal interstate trade in firearms will be introduced to Parliament as amendments to The Criminal Code Act 1901 and will build upon a range of strict gun-control measures introduced by the Federal Government in recent years.

Media contact: Mairi Barton 02/6277 7260 or 0439 300 335