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The National Firearms Agreement

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

The National Firearms Agreement (NFA) refers to a comprehensive set of gun control laws and regulations that were implemented in Australia only 12 days following the Port Arthur massacre in 1996. The Port Arthur massacre was a mass shooting that took place in Tasmania, where 35 people were killed and 23 others were injured.

A photo taken from a high angle of Mick Roelandts, manager of the NSW Firearms Reform Project dated 28th of July 1997. Mr. Roelandts stands beefore a container of roughly 95,000 guns surrendered as part of the Guns Buyback Scheme introduced following National Firearms Agreement.

The NFA was introduced by the Australian government, led by then-Prime Minister John Howard, in response to the massacre. The main objective of the agreement was to reduce the availability and misuse of firearms and to enhance public safety.

Key aspects of the laws include:

  • Uniform Gun Laws: The NFA aimed to establish consistent gun laws across all states and territories in Australia. Prior to the agreement, firearm regulations varied significantly from one jurisdiction to another.

  • Firearm Classification: The agreement categorised firearms into different classes based on their function and lethality. It established specific criteria for different types of firearms, including handguns, semi-automatic rifles, and shotguns. This classification system formed the basis for subsequent firearm regulations.

  • Firearms Licensing: The NFA introduced a strict licensing system for gun owners. Individuals who wished to possess or use firearms were required to obtain a license. The licensing process involved thorough background checks, including criminal history and mental health assessments.

  • Firearm Registration: The NFA introduced a system for registering firearms. All firearms were required to be registered, allowing authorities to keep track of the ownership and movement of firearms within the country.

  • Firearm Buyback and Amnesty: To reduce the number of firearms in circulation, the NFA initiated a buyback program. This voluntary scheme allowed individuals to sell their firearms to the government in exchange for compensation. An amnesty period was also declared, allowing individuals to surrender firearms without facing legal consequences for illegal possession.

  • Restrictions on Semi-automatic Firearms: The NFA imposed strict restrictions on the possession and use of semi-automatic firearms, particularly those with high capacity magazines. The agreement banned the sale, possession, and importation of certain types of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns.

  • Waiting Periods and Background Checks: The NFA introduced mandatory waiting periods for firearm purchases, during which background checks were conducted. This aimed to ensure that individuals with criminal records or mental health issues were not granted immediate access to firearms.

The National Firearms Agreement in Australia has been cited as having lead to a significant reduction in firearm-related deaths and mass shootings. However, Australia had historically always had a low gun-homicide rate and this rate had been steadily declining further still in the 15 years prior to Port Arthur Massacre. Furthermore, two separate research reports, one from 2007 and one from 2008, concluded that the new laws did not have any significant impact on Australia's gun-related homicide rate.


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