In 2006, the then Minister for Police, Corrective Services and Sport announced a review of the Weapons Act 1990 and subordinate legislation. The Weapons Review Committee was established to consider submissions from the public, the weapons industry and the Queensland Police Service. The Committee identified over 440 proposals for legislative change to the Act and subordinate legislation.
The Weapons Bill 2010 was subsequently released for community consultation. As a result of this consultation and the nature and complexities of the amendments, it was decided that the Bill was to be progressed in two stages. Stage One of the Bill was assented to on 15 November 2011 as the Weapons Amendment Act 2011. This stage addressed the amendments deemed necessary by the Government for immediate inclusion into the Act.
The amendments will be proclaimed (become legislation) to commence in 2012. A number of the amendments commenced on 2 January and the others commenced on 2 April 2012. A short overview of the new legislation is provided below.
The information has been provided from the Weapons Amendment Bill 2011 explanatory notes.
New Legislation as at 2 January 2012
New Legislation as at 2 April 2012
The increase in penalties for these offences is designed to express greater condemnation of offences involving weapons and send a strong message of deterrence to the community.
The new Legislation also clarifies that a person may possess a knife in a public place, other than a school, for a genuine religious purpose. An amendment to section 51 (Possession of a knife in a public place or a school) of the Act specifies a genuine religious purpose as a reasonable excuse to possess a knife in a public place. However, the reasonable excuse will not extend to the possession of a knife in a school.
Section 90 (A representative is required for some applications) of the Act will require the nomination of an individual as the club representative responsible for the conduct of activities at the club. Currently, section 90 only requires a nomination where an application is made by an unincorporated body or association. Incorporated clubs or associations are not required to nominate a representative responsible for the conduct of activities at the club. The new legislation will ensure that all clubs or associations are required to nominate a representative responsible for the diligent conduct of activities.
The new section 108 (Responsibilities of a range operator) will clarify that a person undertaking the duties of a range officer must be an adult. An anomaly in section 23 (Minors licence) of the Weapons Regulation potentially allows a minor to undertake the role of a range officer.
The responsibilities of range officers are provided under sections 108 (Responsibilities of range operator) and 109 (Responsibilities of range officer) of the Act. Currently, range officers are effectively restricted to Queensland residents due to the requirement for a range officer to hold a Queensland firearms licence. This becomes problematic during interstate shooting events where there are often more licensees using the ranges than the club has available range officers under normal circumstances. In this regard, the new section 108 of the Act will allow interstate approved range officers to officiate in Queensland at interstate shooting events, and thereby supporting the safe and efficient management of interstate shooting events held in Queensland.
The recent growth in medieval re-enactments, paint pellet sports and the
collection, preservation and study of weapons has placed an increased
administrative burden on authorised officers in terms of the approval process. In this regard, the Act will expand the genuine reasons for the possession of a weapon. Section 4 of the Regulation will include medieval re-enactments, paint pellet sports and the collection, preservation and study of weapons.
Currently the commissioner may grant, upon application, an exemption from a provision of the Act under section 66 of the Regulation. In cases where an exemption holder breaches the conditions of the exemption he or she commits an offence and is subject to a maximum of 10 penalty units.
However, there are no provisions to suspend revoke or modify the exemption as a result of the breach. The amendments will remedy this by allowing the commissioner to suspend, revoke or modify an exemption that has previously been issued. An exemption that has been suspended, revoked or modified by the commissioner will take effect when the notice advising that the exemption has been suspended, revoked or modified is either given to the exemption holder, or if the date in the notice is later than the date the notice is given to the exemption holder, the date stated in the notice. The maximum penalty for a breach of an exemption in section 66 of the Act has been increased from 10 penalty units to 20 penalty units.
The amendments will introduce standards of firearm deactivation consistent with the Australian Federal Police Firearm Deactivation Standards (Deactivation Standards). The Deactivation Standards were endorsed by the (then) APMC on 16 November 2006. The AMPC recognised that there is a risk of reactivating firearms by making the firing capabilities operational again.
It was noted by the APMC that the ‘diversion of firearms to the illicit market is assisted when deactivation standards do not ensure that a firearm can not be reactivated and where the deactivation is not inspected by qualified police. On a national level this applies to all jurisdictions except NT and SA. Further, where jurisdictions do not require records of deactivated firearms to be maintained (for example, through registration), the serial numbers from deactivated firearms can be transferred to functional firearms to disguise their identity’. Implementation of the Deactivation Standards aligns Queensland with other Australian jurisdictions, thus fulfilling it’s commitment to the APMC resolution to introduce nationally consistent firearms deactivation standards.
The Deactivation Standards are now in Schedule 2A of the Weapons Regulation 1996 ( 48.12K ).
The amendments will also amends section 6 (Category E Weapons) of the Categories Regulation to provide a clear definition of what constitutes body armour. The definition is consistent with the National Uniform Prohibited Weapons List and ensures that items such as helmets and other articles used for eye or hearing protection are not captured by the definition of body armour. Currently, section 6 deems a bulletproof vest, a protective body vest and body armour as category E weapons.
Schedule 2 of the Regulation provides an exemption from the Act for certain government service entities and prescribed functions. These entities and functions currently refer to Queensland Corrections, Australasian Correctional Management Pty Ltd, Corrections Corporation of Australia and the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS). The references to Australasian Correctional Management Pty Ltd and Corrections Corporation of Australia are no longer current and an amendment is required to reflect the organisations currently undertaking these roles.
Additionally, section 4 of the Schedule provides an exemption from the Act
to the QFRS for the purposes of possessing, using or acquiring incendiary
devices that are category M weapons. However, the provision is limited to
employees of the Rural Fire Service. With the growth of urban/rural Interface zones, there is the potential for incendiary devices to be used by urban fire fighters. To recognise the changes in interface zones, Schedule 2 will be amended to exempt all employees of the QFRS where those employees are performing a function that necessitates the possession, use and acquisition of an incendiary device that is a Category M weapon, to prevent and control fires.
Currently, all prospective weapons licensees must undertake a safety course to meet the requirements of sections 10A (Adequate knowledge of weapon) and 124 (Training course for security guards) of the Act. This requirement is to ensure an applicant has adequate knowledge of the safety practices for the use, storage and maintenance of a weapon. However the Act does not outline the components required in a safety course. Accordingly, the new legislation defines an approved training course. Consistency in training is achieved by requiring training providers to use the units of competence and assessment materials approved by the commissioner.
The new section 6C (Public monument) will address a gap in the current Act which requires deactivated war related weapons or imitations of those weapons which are on public display, to be licensed and registered.
The new section will define a public monument as a prescribed category R weapon that is permanently incapable of being discharged and permanently and lawfully displayed in a public place for memorial or commemorative purposes. To clarify the parameters of a public monument, the clause provides examples of permanently deactivated WWI artillery permanently displayed in the foyer or grounds open to or visible by the public, of a Returned Services League club and a permanently deactivated Bofors anti-aircraft gun mounted on a concrete platform in a public park.
The clause provides that only a prescribed category R weapon such as a machine gun, bazooka, mortar or artillery including an imitation of such a weapon may be permanently displayed and then only if the weapon is displayed in a way that prevents its removal by an unauthorised person.
A public monument is neither a weapon nor a firearm for the purposes of the Act and will not be required to meet the same licensing and registration provisions which currently apply to other weapons under the Act.
Section 2(1)(e) (Application of the Act) of the Act and section 8 (Exempt government entities) of the Explosives Regulation 2003 (Explosives Regulation), provides an exemption for police personnel, for the purpose of possessing or storing service issued weapons, ammunition or exhibits, whilst on duty. However, the definition of possession in Schedule 2 (Dictionary) of the Act arguably applies in circumstances where a police officer may be in possession a weapon, but is off-duty. Further, the exemption in section 8 of the Explosives Regulation does not apply to an officer who is not acting in the course of the officer’s official duties. For example, in a one-officer station where the officer has unfettered access to the station, the weapons safe, the weapon and ammunition, or where a police officer is off-duty while on transfer leave and carries the weapon and ammunition from the original station to the new station under circumstances that may require an overnight stay in a motel.
It is unlikely that it was ever the intention of the original legislators to create situations where it is unlawful for a police officer to possess a stored service issued weapon or exhibit whilst off-duty and complying with the commissioner’s directions. Hence, the Act amends both sections 2 of the Act and 8 of the Explosives Regulation to clarify that police personnel are exempt from prosecution for possession and storage of service issue weapons or exhibits when off-duty and complying with the directions of the commissioner. The new legislation also extends the exemption to police officers from other states and territories appointed as special constables to assist Queensland police during incidents, such as the recent floods, as the definition of police officer in the Police Service Administration Act 1990 does not include a special constable.
The definition of bladed weapons was strengthened to meet national standards (the National Prohibited Weapons Agreement and the National Prohibited Weapons List) and reduce the number of knife related offences in Queensland.
In 2009/10, knives were used in the following offences where those offences involved the use of a weapon:
- 36% of all homicides
- 22% of all assaults
- 23% of all sexual offences
- 53% of all robberies; and
- 30% of all offences against the person.
The new amendments facilitates this commitment by amending section 7A (Category M weapons) of the Categories Regulation to include the following knives, and knife related items, in line with the National Prohibited Weapons Agreement:
- ballistic knife
- butterfly knife
- flick knife
- push knife
- sheath knife
- star knife
- trench knife
- riding crop that contains, conceals or disguises a knife
- walking stick or cane that contains, conceals or disguises a sword; and
- any clothing, apparel, accessory or other thing designed to disguise any cutting or piercing instrument capable of causing bodily harm.
The amendment to section 7A of the Categories Regulation will mirror the definitions of the Prohibited Weapons List. Arguably, a number of the knives on the Prohibited Weapons List may be adequately provided for under subsections (c) and (d), however, the amendment will clarify beyond doubt that the possession of these knives, without a licence, is unlawful.
The Bill does not extend category M weapons to include daggers. The definition of a dagger provided under the National Prohibited Weapons List
extends the parameter of category M weapons to capture knives including
those used in hunting or fishing. The inclusion of a dagger in the legislation is not required to meet the minimum standards of the National Prohibited Weapons List.
The amendments restricts the possession and use of a laser pointer with an output greater than 1 milliwatt to persons with a genuine reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse is defined in the Act and allows members of recognised astronomical organisations and people who have genuine occupational reasons to have possession of a laser pointer with a power output of less than 20 milliwatts. Firearms licensees who have possession of a firearm that has the capacity to use a laser pointer with a power output of less than 10 milliwatts will also be considered a reasonable excuse. The possession and use of laser pointers for any purpose will not be restricted where the
laser pointer is less than 1 milliwatt. The regulation of laser pointers will align Queensland with other Australian jurisdictions and the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulation 1956 (Cth) which restricts the importation of laser pointers.
A new section 68CA (Prohibition on possession of particular magazines – Category B weapons) of the Weapons Regulation regulates possession of high capacity detachable magazines with a maximum capacity of more than 10 rounds for pump or lever action centre fire rifles and high capacity magazines with a maximum capacity of more than 15 rounds for repeating centre fire rifles. The clause is aimed at reducing the overall firepower of weapons on the market and also meets the 2005 APMC resolution to tighten weapons laws to restrict the acquisition and possession of high capacity detachable magazines.
The new section does not affect a person’s capacity to possess or use a high-capacity detachable magazine, where the person is the registered owner of a category D or R weapon held under another licence which allows the use of a high-capacity detachable magazine, or where a condition on a person’s firearms licence authorises the possession of a high-capacity detachable magazines.