Further firearms changes signalled

  • Hon Stuart Nash

Further changes to firearms legislation are being signalled by the Police Minister as debate resumes in Parliament today on the Arms Legislation Bill.

“The bill creates a register to better track firearms in the community and brings in tougher penalties for gun crime and tighter licensing rules,” said Stuart Nash.

“The changes have one objective: to prevent firearms falling into the wrong hands and to restrict gun ownership to responsible licensed people. It is the second set of reforms to gun laws after last year’s ban on assault rifles and military style semi-automatics.

“We are clarifying the bill to address concerns raised by groups who made submissions, and there will also be some technical amendments. A Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) has today been introduced to reflect these changes.

“The Coalition Government has further agreed to establish an independent entity to take over firearms licensing and administration. The idea of an independent firearms authority was first proposed by Justice Sir Thomas Thorp in 1997.

“A new entity to oversee firearms administration would require standalone legislation and a dedicated budget. Work is now underway on the design and framework for such an agency and I will report back to Cabinet with options before the end of the year.

“Before the Christchurch terror attack Police were working to modernise administration of the firearms licensing system. That work now resumes. It’s important there is confidence in the administration and licensing of firearms laws, so Police can focus on enforcement.

“Meanwhile the SOP makes changes to the current bill as follows:

  • In response to submissions from the farming community, owners and managers of agricultural businesses can apply for endorsements to use prohibited firearms for pest control without having to establish a company to carry out the work;
  • The government will have new powers to temporarily extend owners and dealers’ firearms licences in exceptional situations such as a natural disaster or pandemic;
  • The independent firearms advisory group will be appointed by the Minister of Police rather than the Commissioner of Police;
  • Police must (rather than may) issue permits to applicants who apply to import non-prohibited arms items and ammunition providing they comply with any requirement to produce a sample of the item and Police has approved the sample;  
  • The requirement for a review of the legislation will be brought forward from five years to three years after the Act comes fully into force. The three year review must include a review of the registry and the offences and penalties in the Act; 
  • There will be more time to establish the registry to take account of the need to design and set up a standalone entity to administer the licensing system. It will come into force three years rather than two years after the Act comes into force.

“Owning a firearm is a privilege. In order for a person to be given that privilege, they must take responsibility for protect and promote public safety. The vast majority of gun owners are law abiding and responsible. The changes reinforce the positive behaviour required of all gun owners.

“I thank everyone who took the time to make submissions on the bill after it was announced in July last year. We took the time to get it right and the changes make it a more workable piece of legislation,” said Mr Nash.

ATTACHED: Cabinet paper proactive release - Arms Legislation Bill