New safety measures for modified pistols

Controls on assault rifles and semi-automatic firearms are to be broadened to include some types of pistols, under changes to a bill currently making its way through Parliament.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has tabled a Supplementary Order Paper to the Arms Legislation Bill, which is currently before a Select Committee hearing public submissions.

“Developments in modern firearms technology are happening at a rapid pace,” Mr Nash said.

“Parliament needs to respond swiftly to ensure the law keeps up with technology. We need to keep communities safe in the face of new international trends in firearms manufacturing techniques.

“The government is proposing new controls on some types of firearms and parts. We are broadening definitions in the existing law to include modification kits for pistols, as well as semi-automatic rifles which currently fall under the regime for pistols.

“The pistols to be prohibited are effectively short-barrelled semi-automatic rifles and they should be illegal. The conversion kits being placed under new controls turn some hand-held semi-automatic pistols into more dangerous shoulder-fired guns.

"These firearms and parts are capable of causing harm similar to the terror attack on 15 March.

The new controls will:

  • Prohibit short-barrelled semi-automatic rifles which currently are defined as pistols because they are shorter than 762 millimetres.
  • Introduce tighter controls over pistol carbine conversion kits. These kits convert a pistol into a firearm which can be fired from the shoulder with greater accuracy and firing distance. Only certain firearms licence holders who have endorsements to own pistols could apply to Police to possess such kits. A voluntary agreement to this effect is currently in place between Police and Pistol NZ, but this change will formalise it in law.
  • Introduce tighter controls on carbine conversion kits for airsoft pistols. Airsoft pistols are commonly used in sports and paintball activities. The changes would still allow airsoft pistol conversion kits to be imported under certain circumstances with the approval of Police.
  • Prohibit firearms which contain a part known as a centrefire lower receiver. The current law is unclear about whether a firearm assembled from a centrefire lower receiver and rimfire upper receiver of .22 calibre or less is a prohibited weapon.  
  • Clarify the regulation-making powers of the Arms Act in order to respond to new manufacturing technologies

“Police have already discussed these proposed changes with representatives from pistol clubs and airsoft and paintball groups. The Select Committee considering the bill will decide whether further consultation is necessary.

“Some of these changes are highly technical. They respond to the most modern firearms technology which effectively allows prohibited weapons to be assembled from component parts. The law must keep pace with these innovations in order to keep communities safe from harm”, Mr Nash says.