Digital Platform: A Win for Dealers and Police

In July 2020, Illawarra-based firearms dealer, Shane Simpson, was sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for his involvement in the illegal supply of almost 300 handguns to the black market over a six-year period.

Simpson is one of several firearms dealers to have come under intensive scrutiny over the past two years, following the establishment of two strike forces – Strike Forces Myosoti and Discombe – which focus on compliance and enforcement at the Firearms Registry.

Despite NSW’s strict gun control, there is more work to be done to reduce opportunities for firearm trafficking to occur, especially when firearm movements happen across states and territories because of systems and legislation.

The Firearms Registry and other commands within the NSW Police Force are working to close the system loophole by developing an online portal for dealers to record transactions and have these transactions validated against holdings.

Assistant Commissioner Scott Cook is the Commander of the Police Prosecutions and Licensing Enforcement Command, under which the Firearms Registry now sits. He said the digital platform will see firearm movements being acquitted by receiving dealers and monitored by the Firearms Registry. “

The real time functionality and built-in checks and balances will significantly minimise opportunities for inadvertent errors and, at the criminal end of the spectrum, intentional diversion,” Assistant Commissioner Cook confirmed.

“The NSW Police Force Firearms Dealers portal, which is being piloted by dealers and the Firearms Registry in mid-August, is all about eradicating firearm-related crime and ensuring responsible firearm ownership. But more than that, the build and deployment are making things simpler and more transparent for dealers to transact.

“NSW Police Force will be travelling throughout NSW to showcase the system and providing training for dealers and their employees over the next few months, subject to health restrictions. We want to help dealers get on board the new system and decrease our use of outdated paper-based systems,” Assistant Commissioner Cook said.

Superintendent Anthony Bell, Commander of the Firearms Registry, is well aware of the need to modernise the capturing of information about firearms licensing and regulation.

“It’s a challenging business balancing the administration of the Firearms Act and meeting customer service expectations in terms of providing efficient service delivery times, and these challenges go beyond dealers’ transactions,” he says.

“For example, each decision to issue a licence or refuse or revoke a licence is a decision made by delegates at Firearms Registry. Decisions must be weighed up against the legislative framework, legal precedent, the antecedents of the applicant and so on.

“In August 2019, we introduced Decision-Making Guidelines to guide adjudicators in coming to these conclusions and escalating decision making where the verdict is unclear. These guidelines are available on our website so that customers have a greater appreciation of why and how we make the decisions we do.

“Some decisions just take time and I am aware that some customers have had to wait considerable time for an outcome. I have been looking at ways to ensure our service delivery timeframes are improved without diminishing the rigour in our decision-making processes.

“One solution is to digitise more of our applications and improve the customer experience for the applications that we have already digitised, like new licence applications and permits to acquire. We look forward to rolling these out to you.

“To help us with this, it’s really important that all the documentation required for an application is submitted at the time of the application. One of the biggest errors in an application is when a person submits a copy of their club membership card rather than the club confirmation form when they are submitting a PTA for a category H firearm.

“We have updated the information on both the Service NSW website and on our website to give customers clearer guidance on what to submit and when, and we are already seeing some improvements in the correctness and completeness of PTA applications. In the meantime, we continue to work on improving the efficiency of service delivery and identifying areas where we can better support our customers,” Superintendent Bell said.

Contact Firearms Registry Customer Service Line on 1300 362 562
(9:00am – 4:00pm Monday to Friday)

This article has been written by a representative from the Firearms Registry (FAR). The Firearms Registry is part of the NSW Police Force and is responsible for administering the Firearms and Prohibited Weapons legislation.