Hubbub over amnesty ‘machine gun’ that is actually a camera (PHOTOS)

Lewis gun or camera? Don't answer so fast, there. (Photo: Jamie Hanson/News Corp Australia)

Lewis gun or camera? Don’t answer so fast, there. (Photo: Jamie Hanson/News Corp Australia)

While 643,726 firearms were handed over in Australia in 1996, the guns turned in this time around are fewer– and some aren’t even guns at all.

In an article from News Corp Australia chronicling the more “troubling” turn-ins, a pretty interesting piece from the World War I-era makes an appearance.

“Other disturbing finds include machine guns and a homemade sub-machine gun handed in anonymously in Sydney,” says the article before chopping to the image to the right, showing a Queensland Police officer holding up what looks to be one beast of a weapon that would be right at home with an Imperial Stormtrooper on Tatooine.

“Police have reported some of the quirkiest guns handed in are among the vintage variety, like this one handed in by an elderly Queensland woman,” says the caption, before cutting to another photo of the spade-gripped item among a collection that includes a number of Lugers, an M1911A1 and a S&W Model 61 Escort.

The thing is, the impressive hand cannon is actually a British-made Thornton-Pickard Mk III H model “camera gun” of the type used by the Royal Air Force, and to a lesser degree the U.S. Army Air Corps, during WWI and the immediate post-war period.

A Thornton Pickard Mk III H (Hythe) camera gun in the collection of the Imperial War Museum

A Thornton Pickard Mk III H (Hythe) camera gun in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. They also have a few 120mm rolls of film to load it with. (Photo: IWM)

Designed to be the same size and weight as the Lewis submachine gun used by the RAF, they were used to help train apprentice pilots in air combat. However, instead of a pan of .303 ammo, the Thornton-Pickard packed two rolls of film and a box camera.

The idea, as explained in-depth at Forgotten Weapons is that the camera would help provide feedback for would-be gunners and pilots when it came to aiming at an image of a crossing enemy biplane.

Say, "cheese!" (Photo: IWM)

Say, “cheese!” (Photo: IWM)

While they pop up at auction and a few are held in museums, the general policy on the Australian amnesty is that all guns turned in would be destroyed.

The National Firearms Amnesty is meant to take unregistered and unwanted firearms out of circulation, allowing Australians with “off-the-books” guns to either register them for a small fee as long as they have a license or turn them in without prosecution.

Thus far about 26,000 “firearms” have been turned in, out of the estimated 300,000 to 600,000 unregistered guns in the country. The program set to conclude at the end of the month.

Australians found with an unregistered firearm outside of an amnesty period risk a fine of as much as about $213,000 U.S. and 14 years in jail.