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Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Australia to hold first nationwide gun amnesty in 21 years

Australia to hold first nationwide gun amnesty in 21 years

Justice Minister Michael Keenan believes Australia's national security environment is deteriorating.

It is the first nationwide amnesty since a 1996 buyback in the wake of the Port Arthur Massacre.

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

Firearms turned in during the amnesty, which will end September 30, will be slated for destruction at no cost to those surrendering them.

"What we want to do is reduce the number of guns like that in the community", he said.

"This is an opportunity for people to present the guns to authorities, no questions asked and with no penalty", Justice Minister Michael Keenan said on Friday.

During the three-month amnesty running from 1 July, people can hand in unregistered weapons without the fear of prosecution, the government says.

"If people don't take that opportunity, the penalties for owning an unregistered or illegal gun in Australia are very severe".

Illegal guns were used in recent terrorist activity such as a deadly shootout in Melbourne this month, and the 2014 Sydney cafe siege which left two hostages dead.

The government plans to crack down on illegal guns by introducing a mandatory five-year minimum prison term for gun traffickers, and by boosting screening of worldwide mail, air and sea cargo.

"My expectation is it will probably not be the case that we will have hardened criminals who have made a big effort to get a hold on illegal guns would necessarily hand them in".

Mr Dreibergs said "the current threat environment provides a good basis for an amnesty, but any time is a good reason to have firearms off the streets".

Government frontbencher Christopher Pyne said if illegal guns were not available, Queensland police officer Brett Forte would not have been killed on May 29. Do you back a new amnesty?

Senior Labor MP Anthony Albanese also encouraged people to "do the right thing" and turn guns in. The tragedy at the popular tourist site in southeastern Tasmania is considered the worst shooting incident in Australia.

The gunman, Martin Bryant, was given 35 life sentences.

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