Tougher penalties for gun crime a step closer

Tougher penalties for gun crime are a step closer with the passage of firearms reform legislation through another stage in Parliament.

The Arms Legislation Bill has tonight passed its Second Reading.

“The changes have one objective - to prevent firearms falling into the wrong hands,” said Police Minister Stuart Nash.

“We need to do all we can to restrict firearms ownership to responsible licensed people. We also need to better track firearms through the community with a register.

“Since March last year Police have seized 2,138 illegal firearms from gangs and other offenders, an average of 43 every week. Police encounter firearms during search warrants at properties, vehicle stops, public disorder, and family harm callouts.

“After the recent Police operation against gangs in Hawke’s Bay and Bay of Plenty, questions arose as to who sold the guns to gang members. The bill introduces tougher penalties of up to two years in prison for those who supply firearms to unlicensed people.

“The definition of a ‘fit and proper person’ who can be granted a firearms licence will for the first time have a blanket exclusion for gang members, associates, or members of organised criminal groups.

“Since it was introduced more than five months ago, public submissions during the Select Committee process have resulted in a number of changes to the Bill. These include:

  • The duration of a firearms licence will remain at 10 years. The exceptions are first time licence holders who will have a five year licence, and people who have had a previous licence revoked, expire, or surrendered.
  • New restrictions will prohibit carbine conversion kits for pistols, and other firearms including short barrelled semi-automatic rifles, and with centrefire lower receivers.
  • The temporary transfer of firearms, for less than 30 days, will not need to be entered in the new register unless the firearm is a pistol or a restricted or prohibited weapon.
  • Clarification of privacy issues around access to the register by agencies like NZ Customs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • Modified language around health considerations which may affect the ability to hold a firearms licence.

“These changes have been decades in the making. The inquiry by Justice Sir Thomas Thorp in 1997 found our firearms laws were not working. They are now dangerously out of date,” Mr Nash said.