Time to hand over illegal guns

IF your late husband's shotgun is gathering dust in an unregistered fashion on the family farm, now is your chance to do the right thing.

From now until April 30, the Queensland Government have declared a state-wide gun amnesty allowing people with unlicensed firearms to hand them in, or register them, without penalty.

The amnesty is expected to precede the introduction of tougher state gun laws with proposed jail sentences of up to five years for possession or supply of illegal firearms.

Regional firearms' dealer and keen sporting shooter Darren Abbott urged Southern Downs' gun owners to take advantage of the penalty reprieve.

"We are expecting the State Government will really crackdown on unlicensed firearms after this amnesty," Mr Abbott explained.

Shooting is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia. I'm in favour of licensing the shooter, but I don't see the sense in licensing individual firearms.

"So, in reality, this is a pretty decent move on the government's part and gives the general public a chance to register, or hand in, unregistered firearms."

This is the second time the Queensland Government has offered this type of amnesty to gun owners.

Queensland Police deputy commissioner special operations Ross Barnett said during a similar amnesty in 2004 more than 7700 unregistered firearms were handed in and over 2830 destroyed.

This followed the national gun buyback scheme, which happened in the wake of the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. It saw more than 130,000 guns surrendered in Queensland alone.

During this year's amnesty, Mr Barnett said, people could take unregistered firearms to their local police station or to a firearms dealer without fear of prosecution.

Anyone with an existing gun license would be able to register previously unregistered firearms.

At a local level Mr Abbott said the amnesty was an effective way to get unregistered firearms out of the community.

"It could be granddad's old rifle, or a wife who has had her husband's shotgun in the cabinet since he passed away. There are a variety of ways people end up with unregistered firearms," he said.

"While the amnesty is on, they have a range of options. They can take the gun to a dealer and sell the firearm at market value.

"Or if they want to retain the firearm, they can apply for a weapon's licence, and while that is being processed, we can hold the weapon on their behalf.

"If they already have a license, we can register the firearm for them.

"Or if the firearm has sentimental value we can de-activate it for them so it can be hung on the wall, or wherever."

Mr Abbott said as a firearms dealer and a professional sporting shooter, he was in favour of strict licensing requirements.

"Shooting is one of the fastest growing sports in Australia. I'm in favour of licensing the shooter, but I don't see the sense in licensing individual firearms," he explained.

"However, tightening gun laws in Queensland is, in my opinion, not likely to impact on the use of firearms by the criminal element."

But he said the upside of the amnesty was it opened the door for people to "sort out" unregistered firearms.

"And I would definitely encourage people to hand over their firearms to dealers for market value," Mr Abbott said.

"To be honest though, I am a collector and I value history and every now and again someone brings something really important in, in an historic sense.

"Those are the firearms I'd like to see preserved, rather than go to the government's pile to be destroyed."



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