Public safety prioritised with new firearms unit

In a further move to ensure public safety, a dedicated firearms unit will be established within Police, to take over firearms regulatory activities, Minister of Police Poto Williams announced today.

“It is a privilege, not a right, to own or use a gun in this country. The establishment of the new unit and changes to the arms regulatory system are aimed at improving public safety by stopping firearms falling into the wrong hands, and reducing the risk of anyone becoming victims of firearms crime,” Poto Williams said.

“The decision to establish the unit follows consultation with my Arms Advisory Group, and government agencies. It will allow arms staff to focus on this work within a unit separate from, but still aligned to, Police.”

The move is one of the many changes made by Police following the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCOI) into the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain, which identified the need to improve administration of the Arms Act. A new operating model is required to deliver on the recommendations of the RCOI and achieve the public safety objectives of the Arms Act and the Arms Legislation Act 2020.

“This Government has a strong track record on tackling gun crime. Already, we have prohibited the most dangerous firearms. We’ve implemented harsher penalties for gun crime, and a tougher licensing system to ensure firearms do not fall into the wrong hands.

“The unit will complement ongoing direct Police operations focused on reducing firearms crime and harm through targeting serious and organised crime, such as Operation Tauwhiro, which includes seizures of firearms and ammunitions.

“Representatives of the firearms owning and non-firearms owning communities will be kept informed of the unit’s development as it takes shape in 2022.”

An independent review of the unit is required to begin by 2026, to align with the statutory review of the Arms Act 1983.

The unit will be operational by December 2022.  A Transitional Executive Director has been appointed to establish the new unit, and is in the process of appointing staff.

Notes to editors:

Firearms progress

  • The first firearms buyback resulted in more than 60,000 firearms and 2800 modified firearms being handed in. More than 200,000 firearms parts were also surrendered. More than 1000 firearms, 240 pistol carbine conversion kits (PCCKs) and 2400 accessories were handed in during the second firearms buyback.
  • Changes to penalties for many offences, eg the penalty for possessing a non-prohibited firearm without a firearms licence is now up to one year imprisonment or a fine up to $15,000
  • Setting out and expanding the criteria for Police decisions on whether or not a person is fit and proper to be in possession of a firearm or airgun and be issued with a firearms licence. This now includes matter Police is able to consider such as a person who is a member of, or has close affiliations with a gang or organised criminal group.
  • Requiring a firearms licence to sell or possess ammunition, and requiring those in the business of selling ammunition to have secure storage and keep records.
  • Health practitioners being notified if their patient is issued with a firearms licence and being required to consider notifying Police when their patient’s health conditions affect their safe possession of firearms.
  • Introducing additional conditions on firearm licences.
  • Established the Minister’s Arms Advisory group with members from the firearm-owning and non-firearm-owning community to provide the Minister with advice on any matter relating to firearms in New Zealand, including legislative proposals, policies for regulating New Zealand’s firearms regime, and the promotion of firearms safety.
  • Establishing a registry (from June 2023) to link firearms to licence holders, so we know the legally held firearms stock of New Zealand and are better able to trace firearms.
  • Requiring a review of the changes to the Arms Act 1983 after the Arms Legislation Act 2020 has been in force for three years.