Wednesday 08 September, 2021

Introduction and First Reading

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA (Hartley—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services) (16:09):Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Firearms Act 2015. Read a first time.

Second Reading

The Hon. V.A. TARZIA (Hartley—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services) (16:09): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading explanation and explanation of clauses inserted in Hansard without my reading them

Leave granted.

The Firearms (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2021 amends the Firearms Act 2015 (SA) (the Firearms Act) to enhance public safety and address the Coronial inquest recommendations arising from the tragic murder of Mr Lewis McPherson. The Bill also fulfils South Australia's commitment to the National Firearms Agreement to re-categorise lever action shotguns.

Tragically, in 2012, 18-year-old Lewis McPherson was fatally shot in an unprovoked manner, by a youth in unlawful possession of a handgun. In 2014, the offender was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment for murder.

In 2017, the Deputy State Coroner released his findings from the related Inquest, including recommendations for legislative change. The Coroner ultimately made a total of 17 recommendations impacting on several government agencies. Recommendations 7–10 were directed to South Australia Police (SAPOL) to enhance public safety (the recommendations). The Recommendations are addressed by the amendments contained in this Bill.

This Bill contains amendments to the sentencing for the offence of trafficking in firearms currently contained in section 22 of the Firearms Act. The Bill proposes greater penalties for aggravated offences, with an aggravated offence being defined as circumstances in which it has been proven that the person to whom the firearm was supplied was a person under the age of 18 years. Under the Bill, if a person supplies a firearm to a juvenile, they will be subject to greater penalties.

Another important aspect addressed in this Bill is the introduction of a requirement upon a court to impose cumulative sentences for certain offences relating to the unlawful possession, use and acquisition of firearms and supply of ammunition as contained in sections 9, 22(2)a, 31(1) and 31(4) of the Firearms Act.

Following the 1996 tragic mass shootings at Port Arthur in Tasmania, a National Firearms Agreement was reached between all States and Territories of the Commonwealth. The 1996 agreement was reviewed between 2015 and 2017 with the agreement ultimately updated in 2017 with all States and Territories becoming signatories to the revised agreement.

Part of the revised agreement was to increase controls on lever action shotguns through a re-categorisation of that type of firearm. Under the Firearms Act, firearms are grouped into different categories that require different levels of control. Lever action shotguns are currently categorised under section 5 of the Firearms Act as a Category A firearm, regardless of their magazine capacity. Under this category a licence holder is not required to establish a genuine need to acquire each particular Category A firearm. This means licensees are generally at liberty to acquire as many of these rapid action firearms as they wish.

The concern raised during the agreement was the elevated risk to community safety given a lever action shotgun is capable of being fired rapidly and having the potential for a capacity of greater than 5 rounds. Accordingly, the national agreement required the re-categorisation of lever action shotguns from Category A to Category B or D, depending on magazine capacity.

This Bill amends the Categories of Firearms in section 5 of the Firearms Act, so that lever action shotguns with a capacity of 5 rounds or less are Category B firearms. Lever action shotguns with a capacity of more than 5 are Category D firearms. This re-categorisation also provides consistency in controls upon lever action shotguns and pump action shotguns of equal capacities, as pump action shotguns have been categorised in this manner for an extended period now. The Bill includes a transition provision for owners of lever action shotguns.

SAPOL has consulted with all owners of lever action shotguns and advised of the intention to re-classify their firearm to either Category B or D. Upon passing of this Bill, SAPOL Firearms Branch will again contact the owners of any registered lever action shotgun affected by the change, confirm the status of their lever action shotgun, and advise of any transitional provisions. Any licence holder that does not have the requisite category of licence will be provided with a temporary variation for the ownership life of the specific firearm. This variation will be at no cost to the owner (normally a fee applies to licence variations).

The Government's Bill delivers on South Australia's commitment to the National Firearms Agreement on lever action firearms controls and will provide for stronger penalties for criminals that supply firearms to minors, as occurred during the tragic murder of Mr McPherson.

The Marshall Liberal Government is dedicated to ensuring public safety through a balanced governance of firearms that reduces the risk of harm and criminal enterprise. The Government looks forward to enacting these important reforms without delay.

I commend this Bill to the House.


Part 1—Preliminary

1—Short title


3—Amendment provisions

These clauses are formal.

Part 2—Amendment of Firearms Act 2015

4—Amendment of section 5—Categories and types of firearms

This clause amends the categories of firearms to include a lever action shotgun with a magazine capacity of 5 rounds or less as a category B firearm and a lever action shotgun with a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds as a category D firearm.

5—Amendment of section 22—Trafficking in firearms

This clause inserts a penalty in relation to an aggravated offence where it is proved that the illegal supply of a firearm was to a person under the age of 18 years of age. Where the firearm is a category C, D, or H firearm or a prescribed firearm, the maximum penalty is $100,000 or 20 years imprisonment, or in the case of a category A or B, the maximum penalty is $50,000 or imprisonment for 10 years.

6—Insertion of section 66A

This clause inserts new provision 66A:

66A—Cumulative sentences of imprisonment for certain offences

This clause provides that unless the court is satisfied that there are special reasons for not doing so, a court must order that any sentences of imprisonment imposed for certain offences are to be cumulative. This applies where a court convicts a person of an offence against section 9 of the Act for the illegal possession or use of a firearm and also convicts the person of an offence against section 31(1) of the Act for the illegal acquisition or possession of ammunition. It also applies in relation to a conviction against section 22(2)(a) for the illegal supply of a firearm where the person is also convicted of an offence against section 31(4) for the illegal supply of ammunition.

Schedule 1—Transitional provisions

1—Transitional provisions—lever action shotguns

This clause sets out the transitional arrangements in relation to lever action shotguns that are lawfully held by persons as category A firearms immediately before the commencement of this measure. The provisions allow for those persons to continue to possess the firearms as either holders of a firearms licence that authorises possession of a category B firearm (in the case of a lever action shotgun with a magazine capacity of 5 rounds or less) or as the holder of a category 12 (miscellaneous) licence (in the case of a lever action shotgun with a magazine capacity of more than 5 rounds). It also provides for the corresponding registration of those firearms to reflect their re-categorisation as either category B or D firearms.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr Odenwalder.