Gun amnesty: Tamworth boasts highest gun ownership rate in Australia but Oxley police still preparing for firearms to be surrendered

Surrendering firearms: The gun amnesty will begin on July 1. Photo: Breanna Chillingworth

Surrendering firearms: The gun amnesty will begin on July 1. Photo: Breanna Chillingworth

TAMWORTH boasts about 16,000 registered firearms but police are preparing for an influx of illegal guns to be surrendered in the latest amnesty announced by the government.

For more than two months, Oxley police have been preparing for the three-month free-for-all surrender of unregistered firearms, set to start on July 1.

The command has the highest number of registered guns in the country, but it’s the number that are in the wrong hands that troubles police.

“The Tamworth local government area has the highest rate of gun ownership and licensed holders in Australia,” Oxley Acting Inspector Graeme Elms told The Leader.

The Tamworth local government area has the highest rate of gun ownership and licensed holders in Australia. - Oxley Acting Inspector Graeme Elms

“And in the past with previous amnesties, we have seen a significant number of unregistered firearms surrendered, and that is something we expect to happen again.”

The gun amnesty will be administered by registered firearms’ dealers.

“If people want to get rid of firearms they can unconditionally surrender them to police,” Acting Inspector Elms said.

“If they have unregistered firearms they can take them to a licensed firearms dealer who will put them into the system and register them.

Gun ho: The rates of gun ownership between 2010-2015. Source: Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

Gun ho: The rates of gun ownership between 2010-2015. Source: Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research

“But if there is a problem with the gun itself, such as if it’s been identified as stolen or used in relation to a crime, then the dealer will contact police and we will investigate.”

It’s still business as usual for licensing police who carry out inspections across the command every week.

“Unregistered firearms on the streets in the wrong hands is always a concern for police,” Acting Inspector Elms said.

“There are serious consequences for firearms offences, and if you are found in possession of five or more firearms, there is no presumption of bail when charges are laid.”

The maximum penalty for possessing three or more unregistered guns is 10 years in prison but that jumps to 20 years if one or more of the guns is a prohibited firearm or a pistol.

There are serious consequences for firearms offences, and if you are found in possession of five or more firearms, there is no presumption of bail when charges are laid. - Oxley Acting Inspector Graeme Elms

“There are significant penalties,” Acting Inspector Elms said.

“Police encourage members of the public to take this opportunity to surrender unregistered firearms and do the right thing to have them registered.

“There are penalties for those people who continue to possess them if they are stolen or who have a licence and do not surrender them.”

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