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Illicit firearms

Illicit firearms are used to aid criminal activity and strengthen an organised crime group’s market position.

The illicit firearm market is predominantly comprised of firearms which have been diverted from the licit market through a variety of means, including through:

  • the grey market
  • the theft from licensed individuals and firearms dealers
  • illegal importation.

The grey market consists of all long-arms that were not registered or surrendered as required during gun buybacks following the National Firearms Agreement in 1996. An unregistered firearm is an illegal firearm, and may end up in the illicit market.

Although there is no single group which dominates the sale and supply of firearms to the illicit market, the illicit use and possession of firearms is a significant element of organised criminal activity in Australia.

Even a small number of illegal firearms in circulation can have a significant impact, particularly when a cycle of retaliatory violence begins.

Organised crime groups use firearms for a variety of reasons, including:

  • conflicts and territorial disputes over the management and protection of drug turf and appropriation of ‘protection’ money
  • the promotion of criminal image, reputation and status to support their dominion
  • personal factors such as revenge, interpersonal or family conflicts.
Last updated
20 April 2017