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FAQs - Weapons

Q: What changes have been made to South Australian Weapons Laws?

The law has been changed to prohibit manufacture, dealing in and possession of certain weapons called prohibited weapons.

These laws are not about firearms: they are about other weapons. 

The law revised and strengthened old laws about having weapons.

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Q: Why have the laws been changed?

To make our community safer by reducing the number of things in the community that are designed to be used as weapons to kill or injure people and which are easily concealed and carried.

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Q: How will the laws make our community safer?

The new laws make it an offence for a person to have prohibited weapons, unless he or she is exempted in special and limited circumstances.  Police may confiscate these weapons and charge people who have them.  The law allows Police to act before the weapon has been used against anyone.

Some exemptions require these weapons to be kept in a safe and secure manner.

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Q: Who has initiated these laws?

There has been a demand from members of the community and the police all over Australia to restrict possession of weapons, particularly the types of weapons in our new laws. 

The South Australian Government and most other State and Territory Governments decided that their laws about possession of weapons should be made tougher.  The South Australian Attorney - General has been responsible for developing South Australian laws in close consultation with the Police.  The laws were supported by all parties in the South Australian Parliament. 

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Q: Will the police be given more powers to enforce the laws?

No.  The police already have the authority and powers to enforce the laws.

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Q: Will the police take action against people for having a fishing knife or one of the many tools that people use for work and recreation?

The short answer is no, unless they are carrying it offensively or without lawful excuse. 

Very few things that people need for fishing or as tools are prohibited weapons.   For example, if a person is carrying a screwdriver, hammer or a fishing knife offensively, or without lawful excuse, then the police can take action.  For example, it is highly unlikely that a person would have a lawful excuse for having a fishing knife in a nightclub at 2 am. This has been the law for a very long time.  It has not caused problems for law abiding citizens who have fishing knives and other things that they reasonably require for their work or recreation.

The very few people who genuinely need something that is a prohibited weapon for their work or lawful recreation should make enquiries about whether their possession is exempted by the Act or Regulations and, if necessary, apply for an exemption.

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Q: What does "carrying a weapon offensively or without lawful excuse mean?"

Anything can be an offensive weapon if it is carried with the intention of hurting someone or if it is being carried in a threatening way.  This is what is meant by carrying something offensively.  So a bottle, screwdriver, baseball bat, garden stake or even a pen can be treated as an offensive weapon in some circumstances.

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Q: Do the laws add more regulation to ownership and use of guns and knives?

The laws in relations to weapons are not about guns unless a gun is carried offensively or without reasonable excuse.

There will be no new restrictions on ownership of most knives - only on certain types of knives that are declared by the Regulations to be prohibited weapons.  These are knives that are designed as weapons to be used against other people and which are easy to conceal and carry.

The limited groups of people who are permitted to have a prohibited weapon may have to comply with some conditions that are designed to protect public safety, and will have to keep it in a safe and secure manner. 

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Q: Do people who have prohibited weapons have to store them in locked cabinets?

There is no law that says every prohibited weapon must be kept in a locked cabinet.  People who have prohibited weapons will have to work out what is safe and secure in their own circumstances.  As a matter of practice and common prudence, people like shopkeepers and museums who display these items to the public will need to keep them in a secure or locked situation.

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Q: How can people bring themselves within the law?

It is the responsibility of each individual person to find out whether the article that they own is a prohibited weapon

If you do have a prohibited weapon:

  • You need to find out whether you are exempt and therefore permitted to keep it.
  • If you are not exempt, then you must dispose of the prohibited weapon or, if you think you should be exempt, apply for a special exemption to allow you to keep it.

If you apply for exemption:

  • You will have to pay an application fee.
  • If it turns out you are exempt, police may refund part or all of your fee, at their discretion.

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Q: How can a person confirm the status of an object and whether he/she is exempt?

If you are in any doubt, you can call the Weapons Hot Line on 7322 3346 or take the object to a police station for advice.  The Police will tell you whether it is prohibited and, when you tell them why you have it, whether you are exempted.  Some people may wish to consult their lawyer.

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Q: What are prohibited weapons?

These weapons are prohibited weapons:

  • Ballistic knives.
  • Catapults, shanghais and slingshots that have a brace.
  • Three different types of chemicals that are often called tear gas, mace and adamsite. 
  • Concealed weapons - that is, a thing that appears to be harmless, but which conceals a knife, spike or other weapon.  For example, a walking stick that conceals a sword or an object that looks like a lipstick, but which in fact conceals a stiletto or blade.
  • Extendable batons that are extended by gravity, centrifugal force or by release of a button or other device.
  • Fighting knives (ie butterfly knives, daggers, flick knives, push knives, trench knives or other kinds of knives designed or adapted for hand to hand fighting (but not bayonets or swords).
  • Hand or foot claws that are designed as a weapon.
  • Knife belts that conceal or disguise a knife, dagger or similar weapon.  An example is a belt of the type known as a Bowen Knife Belt.
  • Knuckle dusters.
  • Morning stars, that is, weapons that consist of a weight, attached to a chain, rope or other flexible material.  In some cases the weight has a number of points, spikes or blades.
  • Nunchakus.
  • Pistol cross bows.
  • Star knives that are capable of causing serious injury.
  • Throwing knives that are capable of causing serious injury.
  • Undetectable knives, that is a knife that is capable of causing serious injury and is made of a material that is undetectable by a metal detector or  X-ray machine.
  • Laser pointers, hand held devices commonly known as L.P.'s designed or adapted to emit a laser beam greater than 1 mW.

Full written descriptions of these weapons are set out in schedule 2 of the Summary Offences (Dangerous Articles and Prohibited Weapons) Regulations 2000. 

Illustrations of some of these weapons are in brochures available from the Police and Attorney-General's Department and in Council offices and public libraries. 

These items are dangerous articles:

  • Anti-theft cases that give an electric shock.
  • Bayonets.
  • Blowguns.
  • Catapults, shanghais and slingshots without a brace made for commercial distribution.
  • Dart projectors- eg Darchery Dart Slinger.
  • Self-protecting spray - eg capsicum spray.
  • Hand held self-protection devices that emit or discharge electric current, sound waves or electromagnetic energy that is capable of immobilising, incapacitating or injuring another person.
  • Shark darts of the type that injects a gas or other substance into the body of the target.  E.g. Farallon Shark Dart or WASP Injector Knife

Full written descriptions of these items are set out in Schedule 1 of the Summary Offences (Dangerous Articles and Prohibited Weapons) Regulations 2000.

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Q: How will people who make prohibited weapons and people who deal in prohibited weapons be affected?

People who make prohibited weapons, whether commercially or as a hobby, and people who deal in any prohibited weapons need to make sure they are exempted before continuing to do so. If they are not exempted by the Regulations, they will need to apply for a special exemption.  They should also obtain information about the conditions with which exempt people need to comply.

People who make or deal in prohibited weapons need to know that the law does not exempt them if they:

  • Have been found guilty by a court of an offence that involved the use of, or a threat to use a weapon of any type.
  • Have been found guilty of an offence of violence that carries a maximum penalty of 5 or more years imprisonment.

Such people will need to apply to the Police for a special exemption if they want to make or deal in prohibited weapons.  The Police will look at the circumstances of each case.

Manufacturers, including people who make prohibited weapons as a hobby or craft, must notify the Police and provide up-to-date details of whom they are and where they are.  This includes companies and company directors.  They must also keep some records.

Makers must put an identifying mark on every item made.

Exempted manufacturers may sell or otherwise supply a prohibited weapon only to adults who are permitted by the law to have one (eg to people who are exempt.)  They may not supply a prohibited weapon to anyone who is under the age of 18 years.

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Q: What are the penalties for prohibited weapons offences?

Some examples are:

  • A person who unlawfully possesses a prohibited weapon can be fined up to $10,000 or sentenced to up to six months in prison or both.  The same maximum penalties apply to making, supplying, distributing, selling or otherwise dealing in a prohibited weapon.
  • A person who possesses a dangerous article without lawful excuse can be fined up to $7,500 or sentenced to up to 18 months in prison or both. 
  • A person who carries an offensive weapon without lawful excuse can be fined up to $2,500 or sentenced to up to 6 months in prison or both.
  • A person who lawfully has a prohibited weapon or a dangerous article, but who fails to keep it in a safe and secure manner can be fined up to $1,250 or sentenced up to 3 months in prison or both.

There are other penalties for offences relating to firearms.  Also, a person who has an article with intent to use it, or to let someone else use it, to either kill or harm another person, commits a very serious offence and can be sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment. If a person uses a weapon in committing a crime of violence, tough penalties apply.

For any of these offences, the Court will usually also order that the weapon be forfeited.  It will then be destroyed.

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Q: What kind of people might be exempt from the new prohibited weapons offences?

  • People who reasonably require a prohibited weapon for their work or for a lawful and recognised form of recreation or sport.
  • People who belong to certain groups and people who have been granted a special exemption.   

People who have a prohibited weapon will need to find out more than this.  You should not rely on what your friends tell you about this.  You should make your own enquiries and make certain for yourself.

It is important that people know that exemptions do not allow them to have a prohibited weapon anywhere they like or to use it for whatever purpose they like.  Exemptions are designed to allow those people who have a genuine purpose for having a prohibited weapon to have it for that purpose only.  For example, people who are allowed to have a prohibited weapon because they reasonably require it for work or recreation or sport will not be exempt from criminal liability if they have it with them in other circumstances, such as taking it into a night club, hotel or to a party.  Collectors will be exempt only for as long as they comply with conditions.

Exempt persons include those who reasonably require prohibited weapons:

  • In the course of business or employment (this does not cover manufacturers and dealers).
  • For lawful and recognised form of recreation or sport.
  • For the purposes of providing a lawful entertainment for others.
  • A member of the Police in the course of duty.
  • Museums and art galleries.
  • A person who takes part in an official ceremony conducted by the Government of South Australia or the Commonwealth.
  • A dagger may be possessed for religious purposes.
  • Volunteer and paid emergency workers for the purpose of dealing with an emergency provided they do not threaten or injure anyone with it.
  • Executors of estates, liquidators and receivers in the course of duty.
  • A laser pointer for the purpose of astronomy provided certain conditions are met.

Subject to compliance with conditions set out in the Regulations:

  • A person may possess and use an 'undetectable' knife for the preparation of food for human consumption.
  • Lodges of Freemasons may possess and use a poniard for ceremonial purposes.
  • A member of some Scottish associations may possess a dirk or Skean Dhu under certain circumstances.
  • A person may possess a prohibited weapon that is of sentimental value and is an heirloom.
  • A person may have a prohibited weapon as part of a collection.
  • Some Returned Services branches, clubs or bodies may possess prohibited weapons.
  • A licensed person who carries on the business of guarding property and certain licensed employees of the business may possess an extendable baton under strict conditions.
  • Members of the Sihk religion may possess kirpaans under certain circumstances.
  • A member of the Astronomical Society of SA Inc., or Mars Society of Aust Inc., or a person participating in astronomy under the supervision of a member; or participating in astronomy at an observatory; or as part of a course of study conducted by an educational institution.

Manufacturers, including people who make prohibited weapons as a craft or hobby, and persons dealing in prohibited weapons may do so under strict conditions.

 For further information on the weapons Regulations and exemptions, contact:

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