The Federal Government will initiate the first nationwide gun amnesty since the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, in an effort to get illegal firearms off our streets.
On Friday last week Justice Minister Michael Keenan announced the amnesty, which will come into effect on July 1.
The amnesty will allow anyone with an illegal firearm to hand in the weapon without fear of facing criminal charges.
Shooters and Fishers Member for Northern Victoria Daniel Young strongly supported the move, but questioned how many guns it would take off the streets.
‘‘This has been proposed for a long time, we have advocated for a 24/7 365 days a year amnesty for as long as I can remember,’’ Mr Young said.
The Seymour-based MP is a strong guns rights advocate, and described the forced buyback of semiautomatic weapons by the Howard Government in 1996 as ‘‘a disgraceful act we are still living with 20 years later’’.
Instead, this amnesty would be completely voluntary and could be helpful for people who unwittingly found themselves in possession of an illegal firearm.
‘‘People could have a grandpa that has passed away and they find an old .22 stashed in the roof,’’ he said.
A national amnesty has been discussed by state governments and the Federal Government for some time, due to concerns about the number of illegal firearms within the criminal community.
‘‘Criminals by definition don’t obey the law, so whilst we do support it, we do question how effective it will be,’’ Mr Young said.
Instead, he wanted governments to bring in strong mandatory minimum sentences for people who used a firearm in crimes such as assault and robbery.
Sporting Shooters Association Australia (Victoria) spokeswoman Caitlin Pearson was also supportive of the amnesty, but agreed it did little to take illegal guns from criminals.
‘‘In Victoria there has been an ongoing (gun) amnesty for many years, this just ensures there is a national approach.’’
She said the amnesty could be effective at removing ‘‘grey market’’ or unregistered firearms from the streets.
The national amnesty will run for three months and gun owners will be able to hand their weapons to registered gun dealers as part of the amnesty.
Ms Pearson said involving gun dealers was essential for any amnesty to be effective.
‘‘Some people might be uncomfortable or nervous about approaching police.’’
■For more information about weapon drop-off points or the amnesty go to firearmsamnesty.ag.gov.au