Status of the National Firearms Register

On 9 June 2023, the Attorney-General announced that the Police Ministers Council ‘had taken an important step towards a National Firearms Register by reaching unanimous agreement on options to be put to National Cabinet’. The register will replace the Australian Firearms Information Network currently operated by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. Options for implementing a national firearms register were requested by National Cabinet in the aftermath of the Wieambilla terrorist shooting in December 2022. The attack resulted in the deaths of 2 police officers and a local member of the community, and brought the shortcomings of the current system into focus.

This FlagPost outlines developments in plans to replace AFIN with a register and ongoing efforts to develop a system that includes all states and territories.


There have been calls for a national firearms register since it was first recommended in the National Firearms Agreement reached after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre. To date, no such register or database has been adopted.

In the investigation of the 2022 Wieambilla attack, it emerged that one of the perpetrators had a suspended NSW firearms licence after he reportedly ‘left firearms at the Queensland-NSW border in December 2021’ when his vehicle became bogged while trying to cross the border from NSW to Queensland. However, owing to a number of issues relating to how licences are suspended and suspensions are communicated, the perpetrator ‘was still able to purchase ammunition’ in Queensland because dealers were not able to check the validity of interstate licences.

Following the Wieambilla attack there were calls for reform of the firearms registry system, with the Queensland Police Union president stating that ‘When we’re talking about firearms and firearms holders who cross state boundaries, information is not readily available from their home jurisdiction’. He also went on to say:

What I believe we need is a nationalised system which would record you being a licence holder, any weapons that you acquire, dispose of, have in your possession or that have been reported stolen [and] any offences which have been committed that relate to firearms.

The Australian Firearms Information Network is sometimes mistakenly conceived of as a registry, but it is neither a registry system nor a licensing system.

The Australian Firearms Information Network (AFIN)

The AFIN is a system run by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC). The ACIC outlines the AFIN as follows:

The Australian Firearms Information Network (AFIN) helps police and other law enforcement agencies manage the registration, licensing and movement of firearms coming into Australia and moving between our states and territories.

AFIN provides intelligence and information on a national level about each firearm in Australia known to police and law enforcement agencies, enhancing the current intelligence available.

The Australian Firearms Information Network is referred to as the National Firearms Interface in the Australian Crime Commission Regulations 2002 (ACC Regulations), Regulation 2A(2)(l). A reference to the Australian Firearms Information Network is a reference to the National Firearms Interface for the purpose of the ACC Regulations and the definition of National Policing Information in the Australian Crime Commission Act 2002.

Shortly after the Wiebmbilla attack, the Queensland Police Union argued that the AFIN did not currently collect all data points, which affected the ability of officers to assess risk from suspects. The AFIN system does not provide real-time data and has gaps in coverage because not all states use or contribute data. States also have ‘different definitions, licensing rules and restrictions in place’. Another shortcoming of the current system was reported to be that gun dealers ‘are not currently able to check whether interstate firearms licences are valid’.

In June 2023, the ACIC, which administers the AFIN, was reported to have told iTnews that ‘its national firearms database is scheduled to be integrated with its main interstate criminal intelligence system, NCIS, in the second half of 2023’. iTnews further reported:

NCIS is used by all Australian policing agencies; connecting it to AFIN would provide them with richer, more detailed information. 

“When AFIN data is shared through NCIS, it will be combined with other data in the system including incident data and national police reference system data,” the spokesperson said. 

The national police reference system provides officers with records about persons of interest, such as identity information and photographs, warrants, offence history and protection and violence orders.

Progress on the development of a national firearms register

In May 2023 an update on progress towards a national register was provided to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee during Senate Estimates. It was outlined that at a 3 April 2023 extraordinary meeting of the Police Ministers Council, agreement was reached on policy and capability elements and on bringing forward a costed proposal to National Cabinet by mid-2023. The status of public consultation in relation to the initiative was also outlined, with 86 submissions reported to have been received as part of the consultation process, which closed in April 2023 and included the release of a discussion paper, that outlined:

Firearms would continue to be managed as they are now, with the Commonwealth retaining responsibility for firearms import and export management, while the states and territories would continue to have responsibility for firearms possession laws and licensing systems. The Register would not change the way that firearms regulation is managed. (p. 2)

At the time of writing, it appears that the options for a new register announced in June 2023 remain with the National Cabinet, with the most recent mention of the update being remarks made by the Prime Minister at a 29 September 2023 meeting of the National Cabinet, where he indicated it was on the agenda to ‘finalise’.


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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