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American woman arrested with 24-carat gold-plated gun in luggage at Australian airport

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24-carat gold-plated gun in luggage at Australian airport

An American woman was arrested at Sydney Airport this week after border force officers found a 24-carat gold-plated handgun in her luggage, authorities said.

Investigators charged the woman, a 28-year-old U.S. citizen who had traveled to Sydney from Los Angeles, with violating an Australian customs law that prohibits items like weapons, radioactive substances and counterfeit credit cards. She could be get up to 10 years in prison if convicted, the Australian Border Force said in a news release.

The woman, who authorities did not identify, was taken into custody after her arrival in Sydney on Sunday. She appeared in court the following day and received bail, but she could still face visa cancellation and removal from Australia depending on how the ongoing legal proceedings turn out, according to the Australian Border Force.

Australia has some of the strictest gun laws in the world. 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 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 happened in Australia since those gun laws were passed, and reports indicated that gun homicides were down 60% nationwide.

Australia is also known for its stringent customs laws. In a statement responding to the American traveler's undeclared gold handgun found in Sydney, Justin Bathurst, the Enforcement and Detained Goods East Commander at the Australian Border Force, said, "Time and time again, we have seen just how good ABF officers are at targeting and stopping illegal, and highly dangerous, goods from crossing Australia's border."

"The ABF is Australia's first and most important line of defence," Bathurst said in the statement. "ABF officers are committed to protecting our community by working with law enforcement partners to prevent items like unregistered firearms getting through at the border."

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