Legal Matters: What are the consequences if you inadvertently allow your firearms licence to lapse?

Q1. What are the consequences if you inadvertently allow your firearms licence to lapse?

A1. The responsibility to ensure your firearms licence is renewed lies with the licence holder. This is similar for any other government issued licence, such as a drivers licence. Current licence holders can re-apply for their licence on line. The Firearms Registry will send a renewal notice to the licence holder 90 days prior to the licence expiry date.

Once an application to renew the licence is received at the Registry and processed, a notice requesting the licensee to attend a Service NSW office to obtain their photographic identification firearms licence is sent. If the licensee does not attend within the prescribed time, a second reminder is sent. If the licensee does not attend in that time, the Registry takes the view the person no longer wants to renew their licence, their licence will be cancelled and the person will be deemed unlicensed.

The Registry will then send a notice to the local Police to advise them a person’s licence is no longer current and their firearms will be seized. Police will attend where the firearms are stored and take possession of them and advise the former licensee they must make arrangements for the firearms to be disposed of (usually through a firearms dealer). If those arrangements are not made, the Police will dispose of the firearms, usually by having them destroyed.

The former licensee will then have to go through the whole process of re-applying for a firearms licence as an unlicensed person.

There is no redress available through an Internal Review or the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) as the licence renewal has not been refused, it has simply lapsed.

I have had a number of enquiries where I am told the licence holder did not receive their reminder letter or photographic advice letters. This can occur, but from my experience, the Registry has little sympathy for licence holders who claim this has occurred and led to their licence lapsing. Their view, it would appear to me, is whilst they send reminder notices out, it is still the ultimate responsibility of the licence holder to be aware of the expiry date of their licence and to ensure they do all that is necessary to ensure it is renewed within the appropriate timeframe.

So, my advice to readers is to make sure you know when you licence is going to expire and if you haven’t received a letter from the Registry 3 months out from that date, you should make inquiries with the Registry to ensure all your details are up to date on their system so they can send the necessary paperwork to you.

Stephen Mainstone

The information contained in this article is general in nature and should not be considered legal advice. Should you require legal advice relevant to a particular matter concerning you, it is always advisable to contact a lawyer. Mainstone Lawyers is able to provide legal advice regarding all firearms and other Police related matters.

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Steven Mainstone has 30 years experience in the police, as a prosecutor and as a criminal defence lawyer. He has been defending shooters for over a decade.