Australia introduces illegal gun amnesty after militant attacks

Fears of terrorism and an influx of illegal guns prompted Australia to announce the first national firearms amnesty in 20 years.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

The amnesty will run from July 1 until September 30, allowing people to hand in unregistered or unwanted firearms with no questions asked. Outside that period people face fines of up to Aus$280,000 (US$212,000) or 14 years in jail.

Australia said on Friday it would introduce a three-month national gun amnesty, the first in more than 20 years, in a bid to reduce the number of illegal firearms which have been used in recent attacks.

Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said that from July 1, locals can hand in illegal firearms to authorities without prosecution.

"We are living in a time when our national security environment has deteriorated. Unfortunately, we have seen, through terror attacks in Australia that illegal guns have been used," said Keenan.

Australia has some of the world's toughest gun control laws, introduced after the country's worst mass murder, when a gunman killed 35 people at Port Arthur in the island state of Tasmania in 1996.

Australia, which has banned all semi-automatic rifles and all semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns, and as a restrictive system of licencing and ownership controls, has had no mass shootings since 1996. It is held up by many abroad as an example of the need for tighter gun controls in the United States.

But a 2016 report estimated there were 260,000 illegal firearms in Australia, some of which have been used by radicalised locals to commit attacks.

In Australia's most deadly incident inspired by Daesh, a gunman used an illegal firearm in a 2014 Sydney cafe siege in which three people, including the hostage taker, were killed.

Earlier this month, gunman Yacqub Khayre used an illegal firearm to kill a man in an apartment block in Melbourne and then held a woman hostage before police shot him dead. The attack was claimed by Daesh and classified as "an act of terrorism" by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.