It is not uncommon for people in rural and regional areas to possess a firearms licence. Many primary producers possess firearms and corresponding licences for farming and grazing activities including for the removal of pest animals. But what happens to firearms owned by a licence holder upon their death?
The Firearms Act 1996 (“the Act”) is the main source of legislation which governs supplying, acquiring, using and disposing of firearms lawfully in NSW. Upon the death of a licence holder, the responsibility of disposing of the deceased’s firearms falls on the deceased’s executor.
Under the Act, provisions operate to allow an executor to lawfully possess firearms (which the deceased owned) to enable the executor to dispose of those firearms in a lawful manner and within the required timeframe - the earlier of 6 months from the date of death of the deceased, or, until such time as the firearms are lawfully disposed of.
Following the death of a licence holder, the executor is required to:
- notify NSW Firearms Registry as soon as practicable of the licence holder’s death;
- provide a copy of the deceased’s Will to NSW Firearms Registry;
- provide details of where the firearms are currently held;
- provide details of the beneficiary (if any) entitled to the deceased’s firearms; or
- if there is no beneficiary, provide disposal details if the firearms are being sold through a dealer; or
- if there is no beneficiary and the firearms are not being sold through a dealer, provide details of the firearms that have already been surrendered to the Police for destruction.
For unregistered firearms, it is an offence for a person to supply, acquire, possess or use an unregistered firearm under the Act.
However if an executor comes into possession of an unregistered firearm formerly held by a deceased licence holder, the executor will not be subject to a penalty so long as they immediately surrender the unregistered firearm to the Police.