A 28-year-old American woman has been arrested by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers after they found an undeclared 24-carat gold-plated pistol in her luggage when she flew into Sydney from Los Angeles.
In a statement by the ABF, the woman did not hold a permit to import or possess a firearm in Australia and also violated Australian customs law that prohibits items like radioactive substances and counterfeit credit cards. As a result, the woman was charged under section 233BAB (5) of the Customs Act 1901, which states it is illegal for a person to “intentionally” import firearms without prior approval and could get up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
The woman, who was not identified by the agency, appeared in court Monday and received bail. Her continued stay in Australia is subject to the courts, but she could still face visa cancellation and removal from Australia depending on how the ongoing legal proceedings turn out.
ABF Commander Justin Bathurst said the arrest spoke to the diligence of the force’s officers and the sophistication of the country’s detection technology.
“The ABF is Australia’s first and most important line of defense,” Bathurst said. “ABF officers are committed to protecting our community by working with law enforcement partners to prevent items like unregistered firearms from getting through at the border.”
In fact, Australia has some of the strictest gun laws in the world and is often held up as an example of how decisive action gun control can succeed in reducing deaths from firearms. After a mass shooting at a café in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur in April 1996, which left 35 people dead, and another 23 people wounded, Australia passed legislation that banned the sale and importation of automatic and semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, established a 28-day waiting period to buy a firearm, and implemented a widespread and mandatory gun-buyback program. The government also confiscated and destroyed almost 700,000 firearms, which, at the time, cut the number of gun-owning households by about half in Australia.
As of May 2022, only one mass shooting had occurred in Australia since those gun laws were passed, and reports indicated that gun homicides were down 60% nationwide. Meanwhile, gun violence has reached record levels in the United States, which is the only nation in the world where civilian firearms outnumber people. The US also has more deaths from gun violence than any other developed country per capita. According to Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) data from 2019, the rate in the US is eight times greater than in Canada, 22 times higher than in the European Union, and 23 times greater than in Australia.