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Australia announces three-month gun amnesty

Australia announces three-month gun amnesty

Australia is bringing in its first national gun amnesty since 1996 because of the growing terrorism threat and an influx of illegal arms in the country.

In 1996, gunman Martin Bryant murdered 35 people and wounded 23 others at the Port Arthur historic site in southern Tasmania.

The program starts on July 1 and within three months - until September 30 - anyone who possesses an unwanted or unregistered firearm, or a firearm-related item such as ammunition, can legally dispose of or register their firearm at "approved drop-off points in each State and Territory", without fear of being prosecuted, Justice Minister said.

"We're living in a time when our national security environment has deteriorated", Australia's Justice Minister Michael Keenan said Friday.

"Unfortunately, we have seen, through terror attacks in Australia, that illegal guns have been used".

"The danger there is that there might be a circumstance where the wrong person - a criminal, a terrorist - might get their hands on those guns". The Port Arthur massacre led state governments to legislate tough restrictions on rapid-fire weapons and to buy back nearly 700,000 newly outlawed guns.

Mrs Roberts said Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission data indicated there were 250,000 illegal firearms in Australia, but the WA number was unknown.

However, authorities estimate that some 260,000 unregistered firearms, including automatic weapons, are now in the community, despite periodical amnesties run by Australian states.

"(Also) with the fact that we do know that people from organised crime backgrounds are getting their hands on firearms, we do want them handed in", he said.

Keenan has argued that state amnesties, such as one conducted in Queensland, had provided to be successful in continuing to keep illegal weapons off the streets after the 1996 amnesty. The measure led to severe restrictions on firearms including an outright ban on most semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns.

It's not a "cash for guns" scheme, instead people are being urged to hand in any illegal firearms at their local police station, no questions asked.

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

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