I live in country Victoria, and recently lost a bolt from a rifle after I had removed it from the firearm in order to comply with what I believed to be a legal requirement. I have since been told this is not the case.
What are the storage requirements when carrying firearms in a vehicle in Victoria?
I’m often asked this question. As the requirements in all states differ, readers should take care to ensure that they do not interpret this reply as being applicable to any other state or territory.
The short answer to your question is that no, it is not strictly necessary for you to remove the bolt from your firearm; however, in some situations this may be advisable.
Section 126 of the Victorian Firearms Act 1996 imposes an obligation on those carrying firearms to (a) ‘ensure that the firearm is carried and used in a manner that is secure and is not dangerous’ and (b) ‘must take all reasonable precautions to ensure that the firearm is not lost and stolen’.
Section 126 has four parts. Parts (1)-(3) are substantially the same, except that different penalties apply to different classes of firearm. The penalty in the case of category A & B firearms is 60 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment, for category C & D firearms it is 120 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment, and for category E long arms or handguns it is 240 penalty units or four years imprisonment.
Sub paragraph 4 provides that a person carrying ammunition must ‘ensure that the cartridge ammunition is carried and used in a manner that is secure and is not dangerous;’ and (b) ‘must take all reasonable precautions to ensure that the cartridge ammunition is not lost or stolen’. The penalty in this case is 60 penalty units or 12 months imprisonment.
A penalty unit is $110.
The legislation does not set out the steps that shooters must take in order to comply with these requirements because, if it did, some requirements would be too stringent in some circumstances and not stringent enough in others, and the list would be unable to cover every possible scenario.
For example, if a shooter is merely crossing a public road while out hunting, it would be absurd to suggest that they have to fully secure the firearm for that very short trip. All that they should do is to unload the firearm and place it out of sight; the reasoning being that the firearms are then unlikely to cause alarm or fear to a hoplophobe.
On a longer car trip, greater security than this would clearly be reasonable.
(Incidentally, if you are wondering what a hoplophobe is, it is a useful term created by Col Jeff Cooper, the American gun writer, in 1962, to describe ‘a mental aberration consisting of an unreasonable fear of gadgetry, specifically firearms’. It comes from the Greek Hoplon meaning arms, and phobos, meaning fear. )
I usually secure the firearm in a case that is attached to the vehicle by a nylon covered steel cable when traveling any distance. Here I note that I have a 4WD, and that if I drove a car with an enclosed boot, I would normally not bother doing this with a category A or B firearm.
I also religiously fit trigger locks. While these are simple device that can be defeated quite easily, I have found that they tend to impress authorities. To minimise personal frustration, I have acquired a number that are identically keyed, although the same result could be achieved by recoding the numerical variety.
Also ensure that firearms are kept out of sight, and ammunition is secured in a separate container.
Despite these precautions, there are situations where you would be wise to remove the bolt. After all, if a firearm is stolen, it is nice to be able to advise the police that it is useless to the thief because you have the bolt in your possession.
When I remove the bolt, I tend not to store it in the locked box that I store my ammunition in, or lock it in the glove box, but rather place it in a small under-seat safe that I acquired for thirty or so dollars from Bunnings. I have sought to develop a drill so that I know that if I am away from home, and the bolt is not in the rifle, it is in this safe.
The test that you should apply your mind to when travelling with a firearm is set out in the Firearms Safety Foundation’s Firearms Safety Booklet 2011, page 34-5. ‘Is there anything more I can do to ensure that the firearm is not lost or stolen’.
Thank you for your enquiry.