Criminals and other "unsuitable" people and are being given firearms licences by a police weapons unit that's failing to protect the community, according to a scathing assessment by the Auditor-General.

And Queensland's laws are such than even a murderer who shot their victim can obtain a gun licence, as long as their conviction wasn't in the past five years.

The audit found police are granting firearm licences to people with a history of offending behaviour, but no convictions, even if officers have reservations about their suitability to own a gun.

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll

The Auditor-General found 20 cases in which those people then went on to commit weapons, drug and domestic violence offences.

He also found 1,034 firearm owners who QPS had charged with a serious offence, such as assault, homicide or drug offences in recent years, had not been inspected, despite still owning a gun.

Brendan Worrell's report found police weren't auditing or inspecting 80 per cent of who they were handing licences to and "can provide little assurance that firearms are not in the possession of people it considers unsuitable".

Neither were they checking guns were being stored safely or securely, and guns were going missing when police failed to seize them fast enough from "unsuitable" and deceased owners.

The report found more than 3200 firearms had been stolen, 633 lost and only 780 recovered in the past five years.

Police were also not adequately monitoring shooting ranges so that dangerous and unstable people may gain access to a gun by just signing a paper record promising they don't have a recent criminal record or mental health issues.

"Thus, an unlicensed shooter prohibited from possessing a firearm (such as a violence offender or someone with mental health issue) may gain access and use firearms at a shooting range," the report said.

An Auditor-General’s report has found a multitude of concerning issues with Queensland’s weapons licensing system.
An Auditor-General’s report has found a multitude of concerning issues with Queensland’s weapons licensing system.

Police also aren't proactively monitoring licensed firearm dealers and a registration backlog means they're not verifying firearms transfers and "cannot be certain that firearms are not entering the illegal market", the report found.

"If people access firearms to harm themselves or others, if they use firearms unsafely, or if criminals gain access to firearms, the community is at risk," the report reads.

"In this audit we assessed how well the Queensland Police Service regulates the acquisition, possession, use and disposal of registered firearms.

"We concluded that the QPS could be more effective and that the community is not as well protected as it should be."

He said police should be taking into consideration past offending behaviour to determine whether the person was a risk, even if a conviction hadn't been recorded and all 13 recommendations have been accepted.

Deputy Commissioner Tracy Linford said the QPS had already acknowledged "there's a lot of things we can do to modernise ourselves… and put community safety (upfront)".

Ms Linford said the legislation around gun ownership was "pretty old" and police were considering new parameters to use when someone applies for a firearm which would take into account mental health history, domestic violence history "and if it's in the public interest for them to have a firearm".

The Deputy Commissioner said a new risk-based system would be put in place to identify high-risk people for compliance checks.


Originally published as The 'unsuitable' people being given gun licences