Police are pulling the trigger on an amnesty period and urging south-west residents to turn in their unwanted, unregistered or illegal firearms.
The amnesty will run for all of March and will allow the public to surrender firearms and weapons to police stations in the Warrnambool and Southern Grampians police service areas, without fear of prosecution.
A Warrnambool man this week copped a hefty $2500 fine after he hid a semi-automatic pistol in a storage unit for his mate who was in prison.
The Warrnambool Magistrates Court was told Aaron Johnson, 46, of Denneys Street, relocated a number of items, including a vacuum cleaner, for his friend who was taken into custody in July 2018.
Police telephone interception between the man in jail and another person revealed there was a semi-automatic pistol hidden inside the vacuum cleaner. A police raid uncovered the gun on July 15 last year.
Johnson is a prohibited person under the Firearms Act because he has been the respondent to an intervention order within the last five years. He said he never actually sighted the pistol but knew something was "amiss", stating he thought it might have been drug related.
Magistrate Ann McGarvie said Johnson "clearly knew something dodgy was happening".
"The problem with firearms that aren't properly stored or with properly licensed people, is that some very dangerous criminals can get access to them," she said.
"If word gets about that there's a pistol in a shipping container, then there will be a burglary of the shipping container and that gun that you were minding for your friend in the vacuum might be used to kill someone."
Earlier this month The Standard reported a retired man left two unregistered firearms in his unlocked car during a police manhunt for a wanted burglar. Fortunately it was the police who located the guns, which were seized.
South-west divisional firearms officer Leading Senior Constable Malcolm Agnew said the community had until March 31 to provide police with any illegal or unwanted firearms for them to be destroyed.
"During previous amnesties we've seen a number of items voluntarily surrendered, included high-powered firearms, handguns, imitation firearms and air rifles," he said.
"Over the next month, those in the south-west will be able to anonymously surrender firearms to their local police station or a licensed firearms dealer.
"Since the 2017 national firearms amnesty, local police have been working hard to improve public safety by driving down the number of dangerous weapons and unlicensed firearms in the community."
Leading Senior Constable Agnew said police wanted the community to help keep everyone safe by "reducing the availability of unregistered firearms and illegal weapons to those who clearly do not want them for lawful purposes".
"We are asking people to take a moment to think about any old firearms or weapons they might have around the house or in storage," he said.
"This amnesty is all about giving people the opportunity to make the right choice and hand in their unwanted or illegal firearms, knives and other weapons over the next month."
People are encouraged to ring their local police station before bringing items in. All firearms must be wrapped in paper, plastic or cloth and transported to a police station in a safe and secure manner.
Anyone who has a registered firearm can hand the item to a licensed firearm dealer at any time for sale or destruction.
Penalties for possessing an unregistered firearm start with fines worth $19,800 or two years' imprisonment.
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