When your client wants a gun

A matter was referred to me recently concerning a business owner in New South Wales who wanted to know if he (or his employees) could carry a gun.

Without going into too much detail, the client operates a significant cash-based business and wanted to know how to protect the staff and money.

For most people in NSW (including lawyers), the instinct would be to say ‘no’, and ask where the client had been since 1996 when the National Firearms Agreement was implemented in response to the Port Arthur massacre and established Australia’s strict gun laws.

However, that’s not good enough as a response. If someone is seeking advice, they should be provided with a summary of the relevant law and feasible alternatives if their desired course of action is impossible or impractical.

Below is a summary of the relevant law I prepared for the advising solicitor.

It is unlawful to possess or use a firearm for protection of persons and property in New South Wales without appropriate security industry and firearms licences.

Obtaining these licences is unlikely to be cost-effective or time-effective, and it may be more suitable to engage a licensed security business that meets the client’s needs.

In order to obtain a firearms licence, an applicant must have a genuine reason for possessing or using a firearm.1 Personal protection, the protection of others, and the protection of property are not genuine reasons.2

A person must have appropriate security industry licences if they engage in certain security activities in the course of conducting a business or in the course of their employment.3 Security activities include acting as a bodyguard or in a similar capacity, and patrolling, protecting or guarding any property by physical means (including carrying out retail loss prevention and guarding cash or other valuables).4

The required licences are a security industry master licence in a subclass appropriate to the number of employees (including where self-employed),5 and each armed employee must have a security industry class 1F licence (in addition to an appropriate firearms licence).6

A category H licence is required to possess or use a pistol in the course of business or employment,7 and applicants must demonstrate that it is necessary to possess or use a pistol by producing evidence that there is a special need.8

Before being issued with a category H licence an applicant must hold a provisional pistol (business/employment) licence for 12 months.9 A provisional licence can only be issued to a person who will be employed by a security industry master licence holder, and who already has a security industry class 1F licence.10

  1. Firearms Act 1996 (NSW) s 12(1). 

  2. Ibid s 12(2). 

  3. Security Industry Act 1997 (NSW) ss 7(1)–(2). 

  4. Ibid s 4(1). 

  5. Ibid s 7(1). 

  6. Ibid ss 7(2), 11(1). 

  7. Firearms Act 1997 (NSW) ss 8(1), 16(1). 

  8. Ibid ss 12 (Table), 16(1). 

  9. Ibid ss 16(4), 16C, 21(3). 

  10. Ibid ss 16(5), 16C(2).