Practical changes to modernise arms licensing legislation

The Government is taking action to ensure responsible gun owners with an expired licence due to a predicted peak in applications aren’t penalised, Police Minister Chris Hipkins says.

The Arms Licence Holders’ Applications for New Licences Amendment Bill will be introduced to the House in the next week. It makes amendments to the Arms Act 1983 to ensure that if the holder of a current firearms licence applies for a new licence before its expiry, the current license will continue to be in force until they are notified of the outcome of their application.

“As Police Minister I am committed to making changes to the firearms law to assist Police in keeping pace with firearm licence applications in a way that does not increase risk to public safety,” Chris Hipkins said. 

“The licensing cycle is the legacy of the 1992 change to the Act which terminated lifetime licences and required firearms owners to apply for ten-year licences. No provision was made to stagger the approach, resulting in significant peaks in application every 10 years which we are now experiencing.

“This means the current demand for new firearms licence applications is currently outstripping Police’s capacity to process the application and issue a new licence before the previous licence expires. Some firearms licence holders are unable to comply with the law due to no fault of their own.

Police is also carrying out a more stringent approach to firearms licensing assessment processes following the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack in Christchurch which is compounding the backlog.

“There are currently approximately 9,000 applications in the pipeline and approximately 2,000 applicants are holding an expired licence while waiting to be processed. These numbers are expected to increase rapidly as Police anticipated an upcoming peak in demand.

“Public safety has been factored into these changes. They will enable Police to implement an intelligence-based triage system to ensure they are focusing their efforts in the right areas during the upcoming peak in demand. Applications where there is no known risk of unsafe or non-compliant use of firearms will not be disadvantaged.

“The Bill will be on the order paper for the first reading on 8 November and I would like to see the Bill progress as quickly as possible,” Chris Hipkins said.


Currently the commencement date of a renewed dealer’s licence is the expiry date of the previous licence.

The Bill provides that the commencement date for the new firearms and dealer’s licences will be the date that it is issued, not on the expiry of the previous licence, when the licence is issued after the expiry date. 

The Bill also makes a minor technical change to enable the police to issue notices and documents to an electronic address. Currently Police can only organise a site inspection to a range or improvement by the post or hand delivered. By allowing notices and documents to be sent to an email address will improve efficiency for licence holders, range operators, and Police.