Firearms Lawyer Simon Munslow answers your legal questions.

What are ‘all reasonable steps’ to secure a firearm in a low risk situation?

Many farmers hardly see a visitor attend their property from week to week, let alone someone with the intent of stealing a firearm.  It is almost as though they live in their own world, separated from reality by a 1 km long driveway.

In this environment, it is easy for them to believe that the laws of the land do not apply to them, and they adopt a somewhat relaxed standard about firearms storage.

All too often, a rifle may be left in plain view on the passenger side of a utility when the farmer has gone into the homestead for lunch, or it may be left in a cupboard in the hall over night rather than being locked in the safe, so as to increase the chance of nailing a prowling fox.

After all, short of a random visit or theft, no one is going to know, are they? And anyway, when the local copper has visited to inspect the safe in the country, he always tends to make an appointment.

Or so many think! Having lived and worked in the country for many years, I am not so sure about that. I never fail to be amazed at the way that a good rural copper seems to find out about things.  I am sure some coppers have a sixth sense!

I also never fail to be amazed how the gun behind the cupboard door goes missing, when the farmer thinks that only a few members of his family and a couple of neighbours know about it – and they are, I am assured, beyond reproach.

With the propensity of Australians to indulge in the practice of Barrack Room law, they then proceed to try and justify their new found storage arrangements with a statement along the following lines:

I am supposed to take all reasonable steps to secure my firearm, because there is next to no risk on my place, I should not have to lock up my firearms, so I often do not.’

There is a recent (21 Nov 2014) decision of the Appeal Panel of the NSW Civil & Administrative Tribunal in Leviny v Commissioner of Police NSW Police Force (2014) NSWCATAP 90 that is deals with this argument very neatly.

At paragraph 26 they found:

26   Finally, we wish to reinforce a point made to Mr. Leviny at hearing. While s 39(1) of the Act requires a person who possesses or uses a firearm to ‘take all reasonable precautions’ to ensure (a) ‘its safekeeping’, (b) ‘that it is not stolen or lost’, and (c) ‘that it does not come into the possession of a person who is not authorised to possess the firearm’, the question of what is ‘reasonable’ is not resolved simply by having regard to the subjective explanations of the licence holder as to what he or she might regard as ‘reasonable’. It is a standard to be applied in an objective way. In making that objective assessment the mandatory standards laid down in the sections that follow for the different categories of weapon must, at the least, be satisfied. For Category A weapons, they are the standards set out in s 40. As noted above, among the s 40 standards is one in relation to the storage of firearms when ‘not actually being used or carried’ (s 40(1)(a)); and there is a requirement for separate storage of ammunition (s 40(1)(d))…

That is to say that the standards prescribed are to be considered minimum mandatory standards.  You may reasonably exceed these standards, but no circumstance justifies the adoption of a lower standard.

You have been warned.

This is for information only, it does not constitute legal advice.  If needed seek an opinion dealing with your particular circumstances.  Reading this article does not give rise to a solicitor- client relationship.

Please call me to discuss or to suggest subject matter for further articles. Simon Munslow.





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Simon Munslow