Appendix F









An authoritative paper produced

as a Parliamentary Background Brief

in September 1982

by the Queensland Police Department.



Reprinted in the community interest by the


(Victorian Group)

G.P.O. Box 1434 M Melbourne 3001



The 'Gun Control' issue has so often been clouded by empty rhetoric and appalling ignorance of the real cause/effect relationship between armed crime and community gun ownership, that a sound public understanding of the matter has not been possible.

The debate has regularly been argued from the particular to the general with a logic that would not be tolerated on any other subject.

In reprinting this paper, which we understand was prepared by a barrister and Assistant Commissioner in the Queensland Police Department, the Australian Firearm Law Institute hopes for a more enlightened approach to the 'Gun Control' question - an approach which will be genuinely, aimed at protecting the community from armed crime.



B. Roenfeldt

Victorian Secretary

A.F.L. Inst.

(Logo of AFLI)



Page 1 (page 2 was not released by Freedom of Information, Victoria)





The Issues

The main issues concerning firearms are in relation to control of availability, possession and use. Opinion in the community ranges from a total prohibition stance. through various degrees of control. to no control. The issue of firearms in the community is very emotive. This is understandable. Firearms owners and users wish to protect their interests. Advocates of prohibition set all firearms as a threat. One fact which is often lost is that all firearms are inanimate objects and incapable of operation without human intervention. That is not to say that all classes of firearms have the same destructive capacity. Obviously that is not correct. It is a statement that the human element is the most essential one in the use or abuse of a firearm.


Classes of Firearms

What types of weapons are we talking about when discussing Firearms?

What is a Firearm? The dictionary definition is:

Firearm. A weapon from which missiles are propelled by an explosive. e.g. gunpowder.1

The definition in the Queensland Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act is much more specific:

a gun or other weapon -

(a) that is capable or propelling a projectile by means of an explosive..

(b) that is capable of propelling a projectile by, any other means and which if used in a normal manner is capable of causing bodily 'harm'. or

(c) that is capable of discharging a blank fire cartridge.:

a gun or weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious. Corrosive. or irritant liquid, powder, gas, chemical or substance capable of causing bodily harm.

any thing whatsoever declared by. Order in Council to be a firearm for the purposes of this Act:

a gun, weapon or other thing which, if any, pan or parts thereof were replaced or defect therein or condition thereof were remedied or rectified, would be a gun. weapon or thing defined in provision (a). (b) or (c) hereof.

but does not include -

a long-bow;

a cross-bow;

a spear gun;

an explosive-powered tool as defined in the Construction Safety. Act 1971-1975. when not used as a weapon.2


In general terms firearms in common use may be classified into the following types:

Pistols - single shot

- automatic

- revolver

Rifles - lever action

- pump action

- bolt action

- semi-automatic

- automatic


1 The Shorter, Oxford Dictionary on Historical Principals 3rd Edition (1975) Clarendon Press. Oxford Vol. 1 P. 755.

2 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1979. NO 68 of 1979. Government Printer Q?? P.6.


page 3


Shotguns - double barrel side-by-side

- double barrel over and under

- single barrel single shot

- single barrel pump action

- single barrel semi-automatic

Combination rifle/shotgun

Sub-machine guns

Machine guns


Confusion exists in the meaning of the terms automatic and semi-automatic. In an automatic firearm more than one round may be discharged by a single operation of the trigger. In a semi-automatic firearm the trigger must be operated each time a shot is fired but a new round is placed in the breech automatically. Private ownership of automatic firearms in working condition is totally banned throughout Australia. It should be noted that an automatic rifle is classed as a machine gun or sub-machine gun. These items arc classed as dangerous articles in Queensland and prohibited by virtue of Section 68 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act:

68. Prohibition on use or possession of dangerous articles. (1) Subject to this Act. a person shall not have possession of, acquire or use any. dangerous article.

(2) A person who supplies a dangerous article to any person who is not entitles. To possess. or acquire that article commits an offence against this Act.3

A further means of classification of firearms is:


non-concealable usually shotguns and rifles

In Queensland a concealable firearm is defined:

"concealable firearm" includes any firearm designed, adapted or modified so as to he reasonably capable of being fired from the one hand: The term includes -

(a) any Firearm which is less than 75 centimetres in overall length.

(b) any blank fire concealable

(c) any part of any concealable firearm.

(d) anything declared by Order in Council to be a concealable firearm:4

Firearms Users

Having defined the classes of firearms some effort should be made to identify the type of person using firearms and how many such persons and firearms there are in Queensland. Accurate figures arc not obtainable. In his recent book Firearms and Violence in Australian Life, Professor Richard Harding produced the following table which may serve as some indication:


Estimated Gun Ownership in Australia, 1975


Number of persons over 15 owning firearms


Number of firearms owned by such persons


Average number of firearms per owner


Number of guns per 1000 of total population


Number of guns per 1000 households


% of households in which there is at least one gun



3 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act op. cit p 27

4 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act op. Cit pp 4-5

5 Harding R Firearms and Violence in Australian Life. University of Western Australian Press. Nedland WA (1981) p49


page 4 (page 5 was not released by Freedom of Information, Victoria)


Provision has been made for the possession of such a weapon as a souvenir provided that it has been rendered inoperable:

29. Antiques and souvenirs. (1) A person shall not possess or otherwise acquire an antique concealable firearm, a souvenir concealable firearm, a souvenir machine gun or a souvenir sub-machine gun unless he holds a licence in respect of that firearm.

(2) A licence in respect of an antique concealable firearm. a souvenir concealable firearm, a souvenir machine gun or a souvenir sub-machine gun shall not be granted or issued unless an authorised officer is satisfied that --

(a) the firearm, the subject of the application, has been produced to the person to whom the application has been made; and

(b) in the case of a souvenir concealable Firearm, a souvenir machine gun or a souvenir sub-machine gun, the firearm, machine gun or sub-machine gun is, or has been rendered by a member of the police force. incapable of operation as a firearm, machine gun or sub-machine gun.

(3) No action shall lie against any member of the police for anything done or omitted to be done or caused to be done to any firearm in pursuance of this section.

(4) Where there is in force a souvenir licence in respect of a concealable firearm a machine gun or a sub-machine gun, the licensee shall produce for inspection, at least once every two years from date of issue of that licence, the firearm which is the subject of that licence to the officer in charge of police for the division of the Police District in which he resides.

The officer in charge to whom such souvenir concealable firearm, souvenir machine gun or souvenir sub-machine gun is produced for inspection shall inspect it to ascertain that it is still incapable of operation.

Upon being satisfied that it complies with the licence and is incapable of operation, the officer in charge shall endorse the licence with date of inspection.

This provision was inserted to allow collectors and owners of family heirlooms to be in a position to legally keep such firearms.


Restricted weapons

Concealable firearms have over a number of years been a favourite tool of criminals. These types of guns pose a particular threat to society and restrictions have been placed on their possession. A licence must be obtained prior to acquiring or possessing a concealable firearm by virtue of Section 26 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act.

26. Concealable firearms. (1) Subject to this Act, a person shall not have in his possession or otherwise acquire a concealable firearm unless he holds a licence in respect of that concealable Firearm:

Penalty: For a first offence $400 or imprisonment for six months, or both such fine and imprisonment:

For a second or subsequent offence $800 or imprisonment for 12 months, or both such fine and imprisonment.

2. Where any person who is convicted of any offence defined in subsection (1) has been previously convicted, whether in Queensland or elsewhere, of an indictable offence and has served a sentence of imprisonment in respect of such indictable offence, the court before whom such person is convicted shall. in addition to any other penalty it may impose, sentence such person to a term of imprisonment of not less than three months and not exceeding three years which sentence of imprisonment shall not be suspended mitigated or


page 6


waived, any Act of law to the contrary notwithstanding."10

Many critics of controls on concealable firearms argue that handgun control is ineffective and therefore should be abolished - pistols are the predominant type of firearm used in the crime of robbery in Queensland. Controls do lessen the availability of this type of weapon to criminals and certainly prevent the casual criminal from utilising a concealable Firearm.

The handgun is the preferred weapon of the professional criminal; it is also the convenient one for the casual criminal...In other words the very size of the handgun inventory may in itself be a distinct criminogenic factor. In this context, it becomes an important end in itself to keep the handgun inventory as small as is feasible.11

In the United States of America where there is little restriction on firearms generaly the handgun is the major tool of the criminal. The breakdown of weapons used in murder in the U.S.A. in 1980 clearly indicated this point:

Handgun 50%

Rifle 5%

Shotgun 7%

Cutting or stabbing 19%

Other weapon (club. poison etc.) 13%

Personal (hands. feet etc.) 6%

Experience in the U.S.A. has also demonstrated that the concealable firearm is the greatest threat to law enforcement personnel:


Handguns were used to kill 73 percent of the police killed in the U.S. last year. Of a total of 105 federal, state, local and county law enforcement officials murdered in the line of duty, 77 were shot down with handguns. Other weapons included rifles (17), shotguns (6), knives(4) and a bomb. There were 13 percent more officers killed with handguns in 1979 than in 1978.

The officers were killed in a variety of situations: robberies. responding to disturbance enforcing traffic laws, in ambush situations and in attempted arrests for other than robbery. burglary or drug-related crimes.13

Long arms are generally not restricted in Queensland. There are exceptions:

(a) Boys.55 calibre anti-tank rifle

(b) Granatbuchse 7.92 millimetre anti-tank rifle.

These two anti-tank rifles are available on a restricted firearm licence. It is considered that such weapons have no general use as firearms and would be of interest only to collectors. They could in criminal hands be used effectively in holding up an armoured car.

The other long arms which arc classed as dangerous articles and therefore prohibited are:

(a) a firearm (not being a pistol) of the Uberti or Atmi-Jager brands, which is fitted with a revolving ammunition cylinder.

(b) any Firearm (not being a pistol) which is fitted with a revolving ammunition cylinder, but not including a genuine antique revolving firearm.

It was found that these arms were being converted to concealable firearms and were of such a design as to readily facilitate such conversion.


10 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act p14

11 Harding R op Cit p 58

12 Uniform Crime reports for the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (1981) Washington USA p 13

13 Crime Control Digest June 23 1980. Washington USA P 10


page 7 (page 8 was not released by Freedom of Information, Victoria)




































An average of 10.3 accidental deaths a year from a shooting population of 201000 is not excessive. It is unlikely that this figure could be reduced by any regulating system.


Firearms in Crime:

Firearms are used in criminal activities. Since the invention of firearms they have been used by criminals. The question which is to be answered with regard to Queensland is will the regulation of rifles and shotguns reduce the incidence of their use in crime?

What offences are involved? The main areas or misuse are:

Murder Assault Robbery Vandalism Fauna Offences

It is extremely difficult to obtain figures for the categories of Firearms used in offences in Queensland as the data are not classified in relation to type of firearm. Manpower resources do not allow a detailed examination of the manually kept data in order that this type of information may be obtained in relation to all offences.


Total homicides involving firearms in Queensland from 1969 to 1978 were:




















13 18


This is an average of 12.9 per annum. It is likely that a system of firearm control would have prevented few, if any, of these murders. Murder in most cases is a crime of extreme passion. Most victims are known to the assailant:

Zimring found from 554 Chicago homicides of 1967 that three-quarters of the Victims had a tangible pre-existing relationship with their killer.

The immediate trigger for the lethal attack was also ascertained; overwhelmingly, an altercation of some kind was the occasion.19

Robbery using firearms is another area where regulation of shotguns and rifles is advocated. An analysis of raw data collected by the Special Crime Squad of the Queensland Police Department for 110 serious incidents involving weapons in 1981 revealed the following weapons usage;

Pistol 30

Rifle (including sawn off rifle) 13

Air rifle 2

Shotgun (including sawn off shotgun) 10

Unspecified firearm 3

Knife 35

Other (bottles, iron bar etc.) 17

If firearm control is seen as a major preventative of the use of firearms in robbery then one would not expect such a large number of pistols to appear in the above figures. As Greenwood stated in 1978 -

At first glance it may odd or even perverse to suggest that statutory controls on the private ownership of firearms are irrelevant to the problem of armed crime, yet that is precisely what the evidence shows. Armed crime and violent crime generally are products of ethnic and social factors unrelated to the availability of a particular type of weapon. The numbers of firearms required to satisfy the 'crime' market is minute, and these are supplied


17 Commonwealth Statisticians Annual Reports 1969-1978 Causes of Death Queensland (class XVII) 922 Accident caused by firearm misuse, Canberra

18 Commonwealth Statisticians Annual Report 1969-1978

19 Harding R op cit p 121


page 9


no matter what controls are instituted./Controls have had serious effects on legitimate users of firearms, but there is no case, either in the history of this country or in the experience of other countries in which controls can be shown to have restricted the flow of weapons to criminals or in any way reduced armed crime. 20

Proponents of long arm licensing overlook a major point - cost. The cost to implement any system of control in Queensland would be astronomical. Police resources necessary for such a task would have to be removed from other duties. Either an increase in police personnel would be required or areas presently dealt with neglected.

Effectiveness of control of long arms is also questionable. The firearms lobby see any restriction as a step in the eventual total banning of firearms.

It is highly unlikely that the majority would comply totally with any registration system. The recent amnesty (1981) on rifles with revolving cylinders illustrates this fact. Six of the banned weapons were surrendered. It is known from the dealer in one brand alone that over 2000 of that brand were imported into Queensland. What happened to the rest?

The South Australian system of firearm control has been advocated as a model for Australian legislation.

However, the 1977 Firearms Act -- proclaimed on 1 January 1980 -- has introduced a novel concept into the administration of firearms licensing law. It could form a future model for law reform in other jurisdictions, and merits reasonably full description therefore.

Its starting-point is that whilst a handgun licence, or indeed a any other kind of firearms licence, is a privilege, it is not one which should be withheld merely at whim. If it can be so withheld, the liberties of citizenship start to become infringed. The manner of the exercise of administrative discretion by the police should accordingly, be subject to effective external monitoring. Existing appellate procedures appear to be moribund, and though they should be retained in the hope that they recover their vitality they should he supplemented by a new procedure.

The Firearms Act therefore has established a Firearms Consultative Committee. It comprises three persons: one nominated by the police commissioner, one who is a legal practitioner of at least seven year's standing, and one who possesses wide experience in the use and control of Firearms. Whenever the registrar (ie. the commissioner of police) considers that a licence should not be granted to an applicant, for whatever reason 'he shall refer the matter to the consultative committce, and if the committe concurs in his opinion that the licence should not be granted, he may refuse the application'. If the committee does not support the registrar, then it seems that he must grant a licence. The applicant is entitled to put his case to the committee 'orally, or in writing', as indeed is the registrar. The committee's procedures are to be informal, and losing applicants shall not be liable to have costs awarded against them. Provisions such as these are obviously calculated to encourage ordinary people actually to utilise its procedures.21

The South Australian system would seem to be regulating the bulk of shooters in order to exclude a minority of undesirables. The Queensland system seems to be more logical, exclusions are aimed at malefactors or unsuitable owners. The legitimate firearms owner is not inconvenienced.

Where a person has shown that he is not a fit person to posses a firearm he may be issued with a prohibition order preventing him from possessing a Firearm in terms of Section 58 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act.

58. Issue of prohibition order. A commissioned officer who is of the opinion that in the


20 Greenwood C Shooting Back Police Review. 10 November 1978 p 1668

21 Harding R op cit P 10


Page 10


public interest a person should be prohibited from possessing any firearm. conversion unit or ammunition may issue under his hand a prohibition order in or to the effect of the prescribed form directed to that person.22


The effect of a prohibition order is detailed in Section 60 of the Act.

60.Effect of prohibition order.(1) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Act-

(a) upon service of a prohibition order -

(i) the person to whom it is directed shall forthwith deliver to the member of the police force who served the order all firearms, conversion units and ammunition in his possession or at his command.

(ii) the person to whom it is directed shall for so long as the order remains in force, not possess, acquire or hire any firearm, conversion unit or ammunition; and

(b) for so long as a prohibition order remains in force a person shall not knowingly supply to or for the person to whom the order is directed any firearm, conversion unit or ammunition or dangerous article.23

Certain persons are0 excluded from firearm usage due to mental condition, age etc., by Section 62 of the Act.

62. Prevented persons. In this Part, a prevented person is a person who--

(a) is for the time being in a state of mental infirmity or mental disease, whether temporary or otherwise; or

(b) save where otherwise exempted or licensed pursuant to this Act

(i)in respect to anv concealable firearm or conversion unit, is under the age of 18 years; or

in respect to any firearm or ammunition (other than any firearm or ammunition possessed or used at an approved shooting gallery in accordance with the terms and conditions of the approval therefor) is under the age of 17 years. 21



The Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act is seen by police as a reasonable instrument in the regulation of conduct in Queensland. It has reasonable powers for police to act effectively in safeguarding citizens from abuses in the use of firearms. Restriction is only placed where restriction is necessary.


Can improvements be made to the Act?

Some suggestions for improvement are:

1. From a police viewpoint, as stated at the beginning or this paper 'firearms are inanimate it is the human element which is dangerous'. In this light it is believed that mandatory jail sentences could attach to any person using a firearm in the commission of a serious offence.

2. Provision could be clearly made for an amnesty to be in force at all times in respect of concealable Firearms. (Persons in posession of illicit concealable Firearms could surrender them at a police station and where no offence has been involved dispose of that Firearm to a dealer. It is better to have concealable firearms on a register than risk them being acquired by criminals.)

3. On amnesties involving dangerous articles being declared some form of compensation scheme could be considered. (It is expecting too much of human nature to expect owners to surrender valuable items for no recompense. Criminals will pay for them. it may be sensible for government to buy them first.)


22 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act P 24

23 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act P 24

24 Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act P 25


page 11