I was recently approached by a Queenslander who was cautioned on a firearms safety awareness course about the practice of Queensland Police to treat a loaded magazine as a firearm. Can they do this? Do they do this?
I am not aware of any situation where this has occurred, so I spent a while this morning calling some friends in Queensland who are in positions where they would know if this was occurring. One reported that they have heard this, but they have no knowledge of an incident themselves.
If one turns to the definitions section of the Queensland Weapons Act 1990:
(a) a gun or other thing ordinarily described as a firearm; or
(b) a thing ordinarily described as a weapon that, if used in the way for which it was designed or adapted, is capable of being aimed at a target and causing death or injury by discharging—
(i) a projectile; or
(ii) noxious, corrosive or irritant liquid, powder, gas, chemical or other substance; or
(c) a thing that would be a firearm mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b), if it were not temporarily inoperable or incomplete; or
(d) a major component part of a firearm;
but does not include—
(e) an antique firearm, explosive tool, captive bolt humane killer, spear gun, longbow or crossbow; or
(f) a replica of a spear gun, longbow or crossbow; or
(g) a slingshot, shanghai or sword; or
(h) a public monument.
* A replica of a gun capable of causing death or injury by discharging a projectile is a firearm. However, a replica of a gun not capable of causing death or injury by discharging a projectile is not a firearm.
Major component part of a firearm includes a part such as the receiver, body, barrel, breech bolt, frame or top slide without which the firearm would be considered inoperative or incomplete.
When legislation is not particularly clear, consideration of Dictionary meanings is a good place to start, and in Australia, it is to the Macquarie Dictionary that Court’s turn.
Major very important
Major component part = very important part
Clearly, a Magazine is a ‘major component part’ of a firearm, though it is not a part listed in the definition, the list merely ‘includes’ items listed, it does not exclude items not listed.
If a firearm is not fitted with a magazine, it may of course still operate as a single shot, and could not be considered ‘inoperative’, however the firearm would be considered ‘incomplete’ without it, as it is a very important part.
Thus, a ‘magazine’ is a component that could be regarded as a ‘firearm’ within the meaning of the Act.
Note that in Queensland, under s 86 of the Explosives Regulations 2003 must store ammunition in its original packaging:
(1) A person storing small arms ammunition or a power device cartridge—
(a) must store the explosive in its original packaging or in packaging or containers designed to protect the explosives individually and—
(i) in a secure container; or
(ii) on a shelf that is inaccessible to a person who is not authorised to possess the explosive; and
(b) must store the explosive in a secured area; and
(c) unless the person is authorised to do so under the Weapons Act 1990,must not store the explosive in a secured area in which a firearm is stored; and
(d) if the person stores more than 10000 safety cartridges or power device cartridges in a secured area—must display, in the required places for the secured area, a classification sign for the cartridges stored in the secured area.
Maximum penalty—20 penalty units.
Weapons Regulations 2016
Section 78 How and where weapons must be stored
(1) This section applies to a weapon that—
(a) is possessed under an armourer’s licence, dealer’s licence or theatrical ordnance supplier’s licence; and
(b) is not in the licensee’s physical possession.
(2)The weapon must be stored unloadedin any of the following in premises complying with division 2—
(a) a locked vault complying with division 3;
(b) a locked safe complying with division 3;
(c) a locked gun rack complying with division 4.
(3) However, a licensed dealer who has no more than a total of 20 weapons of category A, B or M at the premises need onlystore the weapons unloaded in a locked safe, or locked vault, complying with division 3.
(4) Subsection (2) does not apply while the weapon is in the physical possession of a body’s representative endorsed on the licence, or another individual, under the authority of a licence held by the body.
Section 93 Firearms to be kept unloaded other than when being used to shoot
(1) A person who has a firearm under the person’s control (whether or not another person has custody of it) must ensure the firearm is unloaded, other than when it is being used to shoot
Therefore, you may be regarded as breaching the law if you store a magazine loaded, or if you store one, whether loaded or not, locked up in your ammunition box.
Note also that ammunition in Queensland must be stored in its original packaging,
National Firearms Lawyer
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Simon Munslow is a lawyer who has a lifelong interest in shooting, having acquired his first firearm at the age of nine, and has had an active interest in firearms law since writing a thesis on the topic over thirty years ago at University.
Simon Munslow practices extensively in Firearms Law matters throughout Australia.
He is a regular contributor to the Australian Sporting Shooter magazine’s website on Firearms law matters, has published articles on firearms reviews and firearms law, and occasionally is asked to comment in the broader media on firearms matters.
This article is written for general information only and does not constitute advice.
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