If there was an active shooter you would all be dead.” The adults on screen cringe from the surreal and powerfully wrong words coming from the beautiful child. It is an American ad campaign (designed by Australians) to raise awareness of the Active Shooter training children are having in American Schools. The video is available on youtube by clicking here

Yet again, America is reeling from mass shootings of innocents in El Paso and Dayton, re-igniting debate that has worn the same circular path for over twenty-five years. There is a sad level of acceptance that mass shootings happen in the US, almost as a corollary to their Second Amendment right to bear arms. The framers of the US Constitution wanted a ready militia in a time well before civilians had access to high powered automatic weapons and mass loss of life to gun crime had become a thing.

In an unstable political climate where the rhetoric is about fostering hate and protectionism,  debate about gun control covers broad territory with its own vocabulary… “Terrorists”, “Domestic terrorism”, “Lone Wolf Losers”, “White Supremacists”, “operand conditioning by video game”, “hate crime”, “mental illness”… the list is ever growing but does not seem to include access to weapons as a feature of mass public killings, nor is there a look at the motivations of the shooters.

There is no bill of rights allowing Australian civilians unfettered access to firearms.  What weapons we have legally must be registered and users licensed with background checks. Australia has some of the strongest restrictive gun laws in the world, something held up as a model for the rest of the world. Studies give conflicting results as to whether our gun reforms are responsible for the decline in public killings.

Dr Samara McPhedran suggests that our gun control narrative has been fluid over time. Following the Port Arthur experience firearm homicide and suicide were the part of the narrative but now are not. The definition of mass shooting has been altered over time to maintain the idea that there are no mass shootings because of our gun laws.

Guns are easier to get in the US than here. There are many more legal weapons since the gun laws changed in 1996 but there are still thousands of unregistered and prohibited weapons available in the community despite a number of amnesties and buy backs. Mass shootings still occur here even if not at the same frequency and scale as the US

Dr McPhedran says the solution to the problem is not as simple as restricting access to weapons. Finding a solution is looking at complex human behaviour and motivations.



In New South Wales, the ownership and use of firearms is heavily regulated. The intention has always been to promote the safety of the general public by restricting access to firearms and heavily regulating manufacture and supply of them.

Firearms are not just guns, section 4 of the Firearms Act 1996 defines “firearm” as a gun, or other weapon, that is (or at any time was) capable of propelling a projectile by means of an explosive, and includes a blank fire firearm, or an air gun, but does not include a paintball marker within the meaning of the Paintball Act 2018 or anything declared by the regulations not to be a firearm.

A “firearm part” means a barrel, breech, pistol slide, frame, receiver, cylinder, trigger mechanism, operating mechanism or magazine designed as, or reasonably capable of forming, part of a firearm.


Using or possessing a firearm without a current permit carries up to 14 years gaol

Part 6 of the Firearms Act 1996 provides a list of offences, each one carrying heavy penalties including gaol time of up to twenty years for some offences.



 The standard of proof for criminal matters in New South Wales is “Beyond Reasonable Doubt.” The prosecution will need to prove to that standard that

  1. The firearm was in your possession
  2. That it was
    • Unlicensed; or
    • A prohibited weapon

Our experienced lawyers can run you through the relevant defences that may apply in your particular case. To read more on defences, click here.


 Sometimes, that is the way to get the best result for you. An early plea of guilty saves the community and possibly a victim the cost and trauma of a hearing or trial, it demonstrates remorse and maximises the discount on any sentence.

However, a guilty plea should only be done once you have spoken to a senior criminal defence lawyer. This is because oftentimes a person may be factually guilty of an offence, but not necessarily legally guilty of an offence.

Our lawyers are skilled advocates, well experienced in making not only sentencing submissions that count and will help minimise any penalty, but also can assist in helping clients assess whether a person is in fact guilty or otherwise.  We understand the pressure you are under if you are charged with a firearms offence and we will guide you through the process.

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