Protocol Guidelines

12. Firearms

12.1 Policy on possession of firearms by diplomatic and consular missions and staff

The Australian Government's policy is to prohibit the possession, carriage and use of firearms by members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps and by other members of the staff of missions and posts (including guards). This policy applies to all persons with diplomatic or consular immunity and to premises with such immunity. A special exception may be allowed for individuals to possess, under prescribed conditions, non-prohibited types of firearms strictly for bona fide sporting purposes.

The Australian Government cannot envisage circumstances in which a mission or post would require firearms for its own protection. The Australian Government is fully cognisant of its responsibility under the Vienna Conventions to take all appropriate steps to protect missions and posts, their personnel and their property. The Department will continue to ensure that appropriate protection is provided. Missions and posts are welcome to discuss with Protocol Branch any concerns they may have regarding protection. In particular, where missions or posts wish to seek professional advice on supplementary protection, the Department will, on request, facilitate their efforts.

12.2 Australian law on prohibited types of firearms and control of firearms

In Australia there are nationwide standards and controls on firearms, including prohibition of certain types of firearms and strict registration requirements and procedures. Possession and use of firearms is regulated by the firearm laws of each State and Territory.

As part of this policy, a number of types of firearms have been declared prohibited weapons. Holding any such weapon in Australia is illegal. No prohibited weapon may be imported or retained by a diplomatic mission or consular post, or by any members of diplomatic missions or consular posts.

Firearms which are generally prohibited under the new policy include self-loading (automatic or semi-automatic) rimfire rifles, self-loading centre fire rifles, self-loading shotguns, and pump action shotguns. Additionally, some States or Territories may prohibit or restrict other types of weapons. Missions and posts should check with the local police service for details.

Any person owning any non-prohibited firearms must hold a shooter's licence. Rigorous tests are applied, requiring applicants to show genuine reasons for possessing any firearms. Local State or Territory police should be contacted for details.

12.3 Possession of firearms for bona fide sporting purposes

Limited approval, under very stringent conditions, may be given for individual staff members of diplomatic missions or consular posts (but not missions and posts themselves) to possess non-prohibited types of firearms for bona fide sporting purposes.

Any officer of a diplomatic mission or consular post, or a dependant, who wishes to apply for a shooter's licence in order to possess a firearm for genuine sporting purposes must first seek the agreement of the Department. The Department will not give agreement for any reason, apart from sporting purposes, for members of the Corps to purchase, hold or retain firearms, even where it is intended that the weapon(s) will eventually be exported.

Only after the Department's agreement has been obtained may the staff member or dependant apply to the local State or Territory authorities for a licence. The Department's approval should notbe anticipated and a weapon should not be purchased or imported, or a shooter's licence sought from the State or Territory authorities, before the Department's approval has been obtained. Officers taking up a posting in Australia should not bring weapons in their accompanied or unaccompanied baggage or household effects without clearance from the Department through their mission or post. If clearance is given, when the firearm arrives in Australia, it will be held by the Australian Customs Service until a shooter's licence is obtained and presented to the Customs and Border Protection Service.

12.3.1 Applications - supporting information

Members of missions or posts seeking the Department's approval to apply for a shooter's licence to possess a firearm while on posting in Australia should lodge the application form provided at Appendix 11 [ PDF ] to Protocol Branch, DFAT Canberra.  When completing this form, they should carefully note the conditions in section 12.3.2.

The following supporting information must be provided to the Department with the completed application form:

12.3.2 Conditions under which approval can be given

Approval is for the nominated weapon(s) only.

It is the responsibility of the applicant to ascertain that the weapon for which approval and a licence are being sought is not a prohibited weapon, to ensure that it can be registered and, for a restricted weapon (such as a hand gun), to be familiar with the conditions under which the weapon can be held and licensed.

The owner must comply with relevant State or Territory requirements to obtain a shooter's licence. The Department's approval does not obviate those requirements, nor does it oblige State or Territory licensing authorities to issue a licence.

The applicant should be a regular participant in gun club or association shooting activities. The Department would not agree to a person joining a registered gun club or association simply to hold a weapon with a view to its eventual export from Australia. The essential, and ongoing, prerequisite is that the person is regularly competing as a member of a registered gun club or association in club-sponsored shooting activities.

Where a person does not wish to continue with the sport as a club or association member, or a licence to hold a firearm has been withdrawn, the weapon(s) must be legally disposed of through a licensed gun dealer, surrendered to the relevant State or Territory authorities, or exported. The Department must be informed when such action is taken.

The owner must produce the weapon(s) to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for inspection if requested to do so.

The weapon(s) must be stored either at the gun club or association or at the residence of the owner in a safe container of approved design (see licence application). Weapon(s) may not be held, used, carried or stored in or adjacent to diplomatic, consular or International Organisation premises, except the private residence of the owner. The weapon(s) are to be carried only when the owner is participating in or travelling to or from a relevant sporting activity.

The Department seeks the cooperation of all staff of diplomatic missions and consular posts in complying with these requirements. Heads of Missions and Posts are requested to make themselves aware of firearm ownership by their staff and families and to urge full compliance. Any mission or post that is uncertain how to comply with the Australian Government's policy should seek guidance from Protocol Branch.

12.4 Carriage of firearms and foreign security personnel

The subject of carriage of firearms by foreign bodyguards in the context of State and official visits is addressed in Section 14.9.  In summary, the rule is that foreign bodyguards accompanying visiting dignitaries will not be permitted to carry firearms or other forms of weapons in Australia.