New emphasis on public safety for firearms

A firearms register, tighter licensing system for gun owners and a new emphasis on safety and personal responsibility is the focus of new firearms legislation announced today.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Police Minister Stuart Nash have outlined details of the second set of law changes following the terror attack on 15 March.

“In April we acted to take the most dangerous weapons out of circulation by prohibiting assault rifles and military style semi-automatics,” Jacinda Ardern says.

“Now we are moving to stop other firearms falling into the wrong hands. 

The next Arms Amendment Bill will:

  • Establish a register of firearms and licence holders to be rolled out over 5 years
  • Tighten the rules to get and keep a firearms licence
  • Tighten the rules for gun dealers to get and keep a licence
  • Require licences to be renewed every five years
  • Introduce a new system of warning flags so Police can intervene and seek improvement if they have concerns about a licence holder’s behaviour
  • Prohibit visitors to New Zealand from buying a gun
  • Establish a licensing system for shooting clubs and ranges for the first time
  • Set up a new formal group to give independent firearms advice to Police, which will include people from within and outside the gun-owning community
  • Provide for new controls on firearms advertising
  • Require a licence to buy magazines, parts and ammunition
  • Increase penalties and introduce new offences
  • Enshrine in law that owning a firearm is a privilege and comes with an obligation to demonstrate a high level of safety and responsibility

“The terror attack on March 15 highlighted the flaws in our licensing system,” says Jacinda Ardern.

“Our gun laws date from 1983 and are dangerously out date. Since then the firearms manufacturing industry and the ability to buy and sell online has markedly changed. Successive governments have known since the Thorp review of 1997 that our gun laws were too weak. Further attempts to change the system in 2005 and 2016 both failed.

“The changes announced today have been decades in the making. It is now up to this Parliament to deliver in the interests of public and personal safety,” Jacinda Ardern says.

“Owning a gun is a privilege, not a right” says Stuart Nash.

“The proposed changes will spell out the duties and obligations that come with that privilege. The vast majority of our gun owners are law abiding and responsible. The law changes will reinforce the positive behaviour that is required of all gun owners.

“Under the current law, we do not know exactly how many guns are in circulation, who owns them, who is selling them, who is buying them, or how securely they are stored against the risk of theft or misuse.

“There are more than 260 shooting clubs and ranges which operate without any system of licensing.

“Police have very few options for intervening when they see concerning behaviour. Revoking a firearms licence can only happen for the most serious cases and can take weeks, during which time the guns can be given away or disappear without trace.

“The administration of the system is also very outdated. There are higher penalties for unlawfully taking fish than for some firearms offences. It is cheaper to get a gun licence than a dog licence. We need to modernise the system.

“We owe it to the victims and the survivors of the mosque terror attacks to make these changes. We owe it to other members of the community, such as victims of family harm or aggravated robberies, to tighten our gun laws.

“We also owe it to the men and women on the frontline of Policing. They turn up to some callouts with no knowledge of what they are walking into. Every month Police are called to 200 crimes where a firearm is involved. Every year between 800 and 1000 firearms are reported stolen. They disappear onto the black market, many into the hands of gangs.

“Around eleven percent of firearms offences are committed by gang members. Police intelligence indicates most illegally-held firearms are stolen from legitimate owners through poor storage practices.

“The current response to the buyback and amnesty shows how everyone can play their part to make our communities safer. It is still early days but good progress is being made.

“As of last night more than 2,100 people have turned up to more than 20 collection events. More than 3,200 firearms and 7,800 parts have been handed in, and compensation payments worth more than $6.1 million have been processed.

  “The legislation is being drafted and is due for introduction in late August. It will spend three months at select committee for public feedback. In the meantime I encourage all interested people to begin writing submissions so they can take part in the process,” Mr Nash says.