Arms Legislation Bill: Second Reading

Introduction

Mr Speaker

We all know why we are here today. It has been a long journey.

The journey did not actually begin on 15 March 2019.

It began on 30 June 1997.

Almost 23 years ago, Justice Sir Thomas Thorp told us what was wrong with our firearms legislation.

At that time, the Arms Act was already 14 years old.

In 2020, the Arms Act 1983 is not only well out of date, but dangerously out of date.

Successive governments failed to act on Thorp’s recommendations.

What has been the cost of that failure?

The National Party knows. The Act Party knows.

They know, because the former MP for Epsom, the former National Police Minister, the former leader of the Act Party, the Honourable John Banks, has told them.

He said, following the terror attack last year, that the greatest disappointment of his political life was his failure to act after the mass murder at Aramoana in 1990.

Mr Speaker, I refuse to be the former Minister approached by victims’ families in 20 years and asked:

  • why didn’t you change the law?
  • Why didn’t you take the guns off the gangs and bring in tougher penalties for gun crime?

These are questions that will haunt Simon Bridges and David Seymour instead.

Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right.

We need to do all we can to ensure only law-abiding citizens are able to obtain firearms licences and use firearms.

Since March last year, Police have seized 2,138 illegal firearms from gangs and other offenders. It’s an average of 43 a week.

There’s no point in members opposite wringing their hands over last week’s news from Tauranga, when a Police car was riddled with bullets from a high powered weapon.

Mr Speaker, welcome to their world.

Welcome to the everyday reality of Policing.

I am on the side of the Police.

I am working hard, alongside the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and others in government, to give Police all the tools and resources they need to stay safe, as they work to keep our communities safe.

That includes a trial of the Eagle helicopter in Christchurch just announced this week.

It includes new body armour.

It includes new Police on the street – soon to pass the milestone of 2,000 new Police since the Coalition Government took office.

And it includes tougher penalties for gun crime.

It includes new powers to stop a gang member ever getting a firearms licence – which they can do at the moment.

This is a true government of law and order not a party of cheap rhetoric like the members opposite.

They ran down Police numbers and ignored the Australian gangs who started arriving in 2008.

Mr Speaker, I want to address some of the changes made at Select Committee.

Detail of select committee process

I want to thank the Finance and Expenditure Committee for their time and their careful deliberation, especially those who actually turned up to meetings.

Since it was introduced more than five months ago, the legislation has been improved by the public process.

The Committee heard from every single submitter who asked to be heard.

And their voices have made a difference.

I have also worked closely and collaboratively with Hon Ron Mark and New Zealand First to ensure we get the best law possible and I thank them for their constructive dialogue.

The improvements deliver on the bill’s objectives and enhance the workability for both firearms licence holders and the Police. 

This legislation will place greater controls over high risk firearms and the safe use of all firearms.  

Changes

Licence duration

We proposed firearms licences of five years duration instead of the current 10 years.

Many submitters commented that was too short.

The committee found most firearms licence holders who receive a conviction do so within the first five years.

So it recommended five year licences for first time licence holders only.

Then for successful re-licensing it would be a 10 year licence.

However, if an applicant had their previous licence revoked, or let it expire, their new licence will be for five years once more.

This introduction of an interim step adds more security, and then gives trust – by allowing a longer licence period – after someone has demonstrated they are deserving of the privilege of holding a firearms licence.

Technical changes

The Committee also reviewed the notice requirement for when Police wish to inspect a firearms licence holder’s storage, or a shooting club’s firearms storage.

It has recommended that this should be at least seven days.

The Committee also clarified that temporary transfers of firearms for less than 30 days would not require an update to the registry unless they are pistols, restricted weapons, prohibited firearms or prohibited magazines.

This ensures that when firearm licence holders lend another licence holder their firearm, or leave their firearms temporarily in the care of another licence holder while travelling, we are not creating an overly burdensome compliance system.

There are other technical changes.

This includes a recommendation from the Privacy Commissioner that access to the firearms registry be clarified so the only reason for access is to assist agencies in their functions relating to arms.

For example Customs’ access and use would be around managing the import of firearms into New Zealand.

Health provisions

There were also changes recommended to the provisions relating to health practitioners.

These provisions are about keeping people safe during times of vulnerability.

The Committee has clarified the definition of health practitioner to ensure only appropriate health professionals have to consider informing Police of a concern with a patient.

Fit and proper person test

Mr Speaker, for the first time, the fit and proper person test for a firearms licence explicitly excludes gang members, associates, or members of an organised criminal group.

Why is the Opposition trying to block this?

They like to shoot off their mouth but do nothing about the actual criminal shooters.

Changes made by the Committee also give Police the power to consider whether someone applying for a licence has had restraining orders made against them.

The use of firearms in family harm is an indictment on our society.

Dealers

The Committee clarified the activities that would now require a dealer’s licence.

It is recommended that the Bill state a dealer’s licence is required for people engaged in lending, hiring, selling, or supplying firearms as a commercial activity central to their business.

The Committee also recommended that members of shooting clubs selling firearms for the benefit of the club, and hunting guides operating on a small scale, be exempt from the dealer regime.

Conclusion

The changes we are looking to implement in this legislation have been worked on assiduously over the past few months.

But in reality there is at least 23 years of knowledge and analysis behind them.

We have taken the time to do a sense check on this bill.

I am pleased with the work that officials, MPs, and communities have put into the creation of a better firearms system.

A UMR poll in September found 70 per cent of people support strengthening our firearms laws. Sixteen per cent were opposed.

In Canterbury, a staggering 81 per cent of people are calling for tougher gun laws.

It is up to us as Government to listen to the voices of our communities, and to balance the lawful use of firearms against the harm they do in the wrong hands.

I commend this bill to the House.