Illicit firearms

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

The illicit firearm market mainly compromises firearms diverted from the licit market through a variety of means, including via:

  • the grey market
  • 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 no single group 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:

  • in conflicts and territorial disputes over the management and protection of drug turf and appropriation of ‘protection’ money
  • to promote of criminal image, reputation and status to support their dominion
  • for personal reasons such as revenge, interpersonal or family conflicts.