POLITICS

Justice Minister Michael Keenan Announces First Gun Amnesty Since Port Arthur

There are currently 260,000 illegal firearms in Australia.

16/06/2017 11:38 AM AEST | Updated 16/06/2017 11:49 AM AEST

Australia's first major gun amnesty since the one following the Port Arthur massacre of 1996 is aiming to keep guns out of terrorists' hands.

Police believe the number of illicit guns in Australia is in the order of 260,000.

In announcing the new amnesty -- which will run for three months from July 1 -- Justice Minister Michael Keenan said it was an attempt to stop dangerous weapons falling into "the wrong hands".

"The fact (is), we've got a deteriorating national security environment," Mr Keenan told ABC radio.

"We've got an environment where there has been five terrorists attacks on our soil and sadly in the vast majority of those cases it has been an illegal firearm that's been used."

"This is an opportunity for people to present the guns to authorities, no questions asked and with no penalty," the Justice Minister said.

In 1996, gunman Martin Bryant murdered 35 people and injured 23 others at the cultural site of Port Arthur in Tasmania.

Then-Prime Minister John Howard responded with tough new gun laws, including banning all semi-automatic weapons.

Australia has not had another large-scale massacre since.

If people don't take that opportunity, the penalties for owning an unregistered or illegal gun in Australia are very severe."

The amnesty is an opportunity for people to present the guns to authorities with no questions asked, Minister Keenan said.

"It might be a family heirloom, it could be the family member who owned it has died for example and the family just doesn't know what to do with it," he said on Friday.

"If people don't take that opportunity, the penalties for owning an unregistered or illegal gun in Australia are very severe."

People caught with unregistered firearms outside of the amnesty period could face fines of up to $280,000 or a jail sentence of up to 14 years.

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