Mandatory minimum sentencing scrapped – illegal firearms traffickers will still face harsher charges

The government’s push for mandatory prison sentences for those caught trafficking illegal firearms has been thrown out by the Senate, with the Opposition’s counterargument that the crime be dealt with as an aggravated offence accepted instead. The Australian Labor Party also successfully secured the definition that ‘trafficking’ should constitute 50 or more firearms or firearm parts across a six-month period.

As the SSAA-LA has previously reported, the Coalition has campaigned to make illegal firearms traffickers spend a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, capping the maximum gaol time at 20 years, or a fine of 5000 penalty units, or both, as part of its two previous Federal Election platforms. The party introduced the Criminal Code Amendment (Firearms Trafficking) Bill in September, but the ALP has repeatedly voiced its opposition to mandatory minimum sentencing on principle.

The issue was debated in the capital earlier this week, with South Australian Senator Penny Wong proposing the changes on behalf of the ALP. This included scrapping the minimum mandatory penalties and opting for a new aggravated firearms trafficking offence. Aggravated offences are viewed as more serious offences. The proposed law now includes a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The Bill passed with the changes, but was not supported by the four Senators from Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, with Senator Malcolm Roberts using the opportunity to highlight the Australian Greens Party’s hatred of private firearms ownership. Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm also rejected the Bill.

The SSAA was called to present our expert views on the proposal, writing in our submission that any focus on the illicit firearms market instead of law-abiding firearm owners is cautiously welcomed. Now, the Bill will be read a third time in the Senate before returning for a final reading in the Lower House and becoming law.

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