Can I carry a weapon for self defence?
The simple answer in Australian States and Territories is NO.
Weapons generally fall into four categories.
1. Prohibited weapons
2. Offensive weapons
3. Improvised weapons.
4. Adaptive improvised weapons
Each state has its own laws in regard to prohibited weapons. For example,possession or use of a prohibited weapon is a serious offence in NSW carrying a significant maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.
The Weapons Prohibition Act 1998 makes it an offence to possess or use a prohibited weapon unless the person holds a permit to possess or use the weapon. Importantly, even if a permit is held, if the possession or use of the weapon is found to be otherwise than in connection with the genuine reason for possessing the weapon, or if a condition of a permit is breached, the person still commits an offence. Generally, however, most people who are charged with this offence do not have a permit. If you do have a permit it will usually have conditions that do not allow you to carry it in public.
The links below for New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland provide a list of weapons that are prohibited by law. Possession of these weapons is an offence unless you have a permit/licence. Carrying a prohibited weapon in public without a licence is obviously against the law. Regulations for other states and territories are easy to find by Googling ‘prohibited weapons South Australia’ for example
Each state and territory has its own laws and regulations in regard to offensive weapons. An offensive weapon is defined in the Crimes Amendment (Offensive Weapons) Act 1999 NSW as being:
A dangerous weapon is anything that is made or adapted for offensive purposes. Anything that in the circumstances is used, intended for use or threatened to be used for offensive purposes, whether or not it is ordinarily used for offensive purposes or is capable of causing harm.
This also includes anything that is used or intended to be used for self defence. A weapon becomes an offensive weapon either:
- By obviously being something that is capable of causing injury if used and is being carried in public but is not on the Prohibited Weapons Schedule, such as a stick, baseball bat, iron bar, 4×2 piece of wood and carried without reasonable excuse.
- By the admission of the person in possession that the object is being carried for self defence purposes.
So if you are walking along the street carrying a stick and you are asked by police “what’s that for” and you answer “to defend myself” you are in possession of an offensive weapon.
Improvised weapons are objects that are not considered to be weapons by their form, for example a pen, a mobile phone, a brief case or a walking stick. This type of weapon only becomes a weapon when it is used in an offensive situation (if you attack with it).
In a defensive situation they may not be considered as a weapon depending on what you say and the amount of force used with the weapon. If you defend yourself by stabbing the other person 12 times with a pen, it was a weapon. If someone attempts to stab you with a knife and you stab them in their forearm with the pen it may not be considered as a weapon, once again depending on what you say to investigators after the incident
Generally the object is used as a weapon in the spur of the moment
Adaptive Improvised Weapons
An adaptive improvised weapon is an object that would not normally be considered a weapon, however you are carrying this object purely for defensive purposes and you have considered the options as to how you would use it and you may have practiced with the weapon. The most obvious example of this is the walking cane. Cane masters have adapted an object that is not in its normal use a weapon and converted into a highly effective adaptive improved weapon.
What you say if you have used this type weapon is very important.
- Become familiar with the Prohibited Weapons schedule or similar in your state and don’t carry those weapons in public.
- If you carry a potentially offensive weapon i.e. stick, baseball bat etc, have a good reason for carrying it or at least have a good excuse ready.
- Anything that you can grasp in your hand can be used as an improvised weapon. Consider what you normally carry and learn how to use it to defend yourself.
Always bear in mind the advice in regard to self defence and interactions with police if you have used force or a weapon to defend yourself. Check out our previous posts for advice on what to do if you defend yourself and get arrested.
The author of this post, Phil O’Brien is a solicitor with Sydney firm Teddington Legal and a martial arts instructor who has taught reality based self defence in Western Sydney for the past twenty five years, he has extensively studied both the physical and psychological elements of self defence.
Should you require the services of a solicitor in regard to the use of self defence or any other legal matters, Phil can be contacted at email@example.com or via www.teddingtonlegal.com.au or directly on 0409 078 322
This is general information only; it does not replace advice from a qualified solicitor in your state or territory. It is recommended that should require legal advice you should seek advice from a suitability qualified and experience legal practitioner in your state.