It’s been another harrowing week in Australia.

The latest in a string of gun-related deaths across the country is a young Mackay mum who was shot dead in her driveway on Wednesday evening.

A 31-year-old man has been charged with her murder and the attempted murder of a neighbour who rushed to her aid.

It’s since been revealed that his weapons licence was cancelled, and it is alleged he had obtained the firearm illegally.

Australia implemented some of the strictest gun laws in the world after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, where 35 people were killed by a lone gunman.

The Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 lead to gun law reforms in Australia, making them some of the toughest in the world.(ABC TV)

While all states and territories agreed to a National Firearms Agreement, the laws on gun ownership differ from state to state.

Jump to your state or territory to see what gun laws are in force:

Can you own a gun for self-defence?

This is a hard no. 

Currently, in Australia, it is an offence to own a lethal or non-lethal weapon for the purpose of self-defence. 

Last December, national cabinet agreed to implement a National Firearms Register to fill gaps and inconsistencies across all jurisdictions.(ABC News: Sam Clark)

Can you have a gun in the car?

The states and territories differ on this answer but as a general consensus authorities expect a person to take reasonable precautions to prevent a firearm from being lost or stolen. 

In most jurisdictions, it is considered an offence to not appropriately store a firearm. 

If travelling interstate, it’s expected that a person will check the regulations of the particular state or territory they are entering.

Is it legal to own an AK-47 in Australia? 

This is a yes, but probably no.

Each state and territory is different in terms of how easy it is to obtain certain types of firearms.

Firearms are split into categories which include A, B, C, D, E and H, with H typically being the most restrictive and including handguns.

Hand guns and pistols fall into category “H” in Australia, which is typically the most restrictive when obtaining a firearm licence.(Flickr: mynameisgeebs)

Semi-automatic rifles over 10 rounds are typically restricted to government agencies and occupational shooters.

There is a ban on automatic and semi-automatic firearms under the National Firearms Agreement.

What is a firearm prohibition order?

The order varies across states and territories but it effectively prevents a person from obtaining, possessing or using a firearm, or ammunition, in the interest of public safety.

The order allows police to search homes, cars and individuals without a warrant. 

Queensland is currently the only jurisdiction without firearm prohibition laws.

Queensland

A licence or permit is required to legally own a firearm in Queensland. 

The cost for these starts at $16 for a miscellaneous weapon licence.

The process requires stringent background checks, a genuine reason for owning a gun (for example recreational shooting or hunting), and safety courses. 

To be eligible a person must be:

  • Older than 18 years of age
  • Have a legitimate reason for use of the firearm 
  • Not have a criminal record
  • Have access to secure storage facilities

Non-compliance with the state’s firearm laws could see a maximum penalty of up to 13 years in prison and a hefty fine. 

There are proposed laws before the state parliament to implement a prohibition order, which would prevent an individual from acquiring a firearm and allow police to conduct warrantless searches of individuals and their property to ensure they are complying. 

Premier Steven Miles has said he’s open to revisiting Queensland’s current legislation.

Western Australia

Western Australia has just passed its toughest gun laws to date.

To obtain a licence, there are now eight categories that require stronger evidence of why a gun is needed. 

It costs $396 to apply for a licence and $75 to renew.

There is a limit of 10 guns for most people, and even fewer for those obtaining firearms for hunting licences. 

The licence renewal process also now includes a mental health and physical check.

The changes were prompted after the death of Jennifer Petelczyz and her 18-year-old daughter Gretl at the hands of shooter Mark James Bombara, the former partner of a friend the pair were trying to help. 

Northern Territory

The Northern Territory has the second-highest rate of gun ownership in Australia and some of the nation’s weakest controls. 

In the NT the maximum penalty for unlawful possession of a firearm is one to two years in prison, compared with 14 years in NSW and up to 20 years in the ACT. 

And unlike most other states, the NT has waved the 28-day waiting period to acquire a gun for people who already own one. 

An NT gun licence costs between $81 and $280. 

Laws were passed in 2019 introducing a Firearm Prohibition Order, which increased maximum penalties for a range of firearms offences. 

Critics said those laws left room for interpretation and were not ideal for recreational shooters.

To acquire a gun licence in the NT a person must:

  • Have a genuine reason for wanting a firearm
  • Meet safety storage requirements
  • Have a junior club licence or be over 18-years-old
  • Disclose their criminal history
  • Not have been subject to a Domestic Violence Order within the last five years

South Australia

South Australians must attend a police station with 100 points of ID to undergo a background check before acquiring a gun licence.

Any suspicious person’s fitness to possess a firearm can be reported to the Registrar of Firearms. 

South Australia also has a public access register of people subjected to the state’s firearms prohibition order.

The state has a digital firearm licence available too.

Gun licences in South Australia cost between $110 and $565. 

New South Wales

New South Wales is heavily regulated in terms of gun ownership. 

The state’s police force is responsible for issuing licences and permits and is also in charge of conducting checks to ensure firearms are stored appropriately. 

A person seeking to obtain a firearm must meet strict eligibility criteria similar to Queensland’s and the ACT.

A licence costs between $100 and $250, depending on its duration.

Women laying flowers at a memorial for victims after the 2014 siege at Sydney’s Martin Place.(ABC News: Jessica Kidd)

After the Lindt Café siege in 2014, then-premier Mike Baird changed the legislation to also include a new offence of possessing a stolen firearm, which increased the maximum penalty to 14 years in prison. 

The NSW government also created an Illegal Firearms Investigation and Reward Scheme. 

ACT

Gun laws in the ACT have given police extraordinary powers to regulate firearms. 

Under the Firearms Act 1996, officers have the power to conduct on-the-spot searches as well as storage inspections, either with or without the consent of the licence holder. 

The general cost in the ACT for a licence is around $166. 

Tasmania

To obtain a licence in Tasmania, a person must not have committed a violent crime within the previous five years or be subject to a restraint order. 

Like other states and territories, there must be a “genuine reason” to use a firearm, including:

  • Target shooting 
  • Recreational hunting
  • Animal culling or being a primary producer 
  • Being a security guard 
  • Being a firearms dealer 

In addition to meeting the requirements for a firearm, a one-day safety course must also be completed.

For first firearm holders, a 28-day “cooling off period” is required before the permit is granted. 

The penalty for possessing or using a firearm in breach of licensing conditions can be up to two years in jail. 

Earlier this year, Tasmania’s major political parties vowed to overturn a rule that required antique gun owners to hold a firearms licence, which is yet to be tabled in parliament.

A gun licence in the state costs anywhere between $37 and $683, depending on the category and number of years it spans. 

Victoria

In Victoria, adults can apply for a gun licence but must have “a genuine reason” to need a gun. 

There are several character tests that disqualify people from obtaining a licence, including criminal convictions and intervention orders. 

A man was found with gunshot wounds outside a property in Glenroy, in Melbourne’s north, on March 29.(ABC News)

Police can also refuse if there is a record of physical or mental illness, or drug or alcohol abuse where medical advice suggests a person should not own or use a firearm. 

In Victoria, someone caught with an unregistered gun can be jailed for up to 17 years, depending on what type of weapon they have. 

Carrying a loaded weapon in a public place is also banned and carries a jail term of 10 years.

The cost of a gun licence in Victoria ranges from $180 to $1,994.