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Ban announced for military style semi-automatic weapons

22 March 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that changes will be made to New Zealand's gun laws to ban military style semi-automatics and assault rifles.

She says legislation to give effect to the ban will be introduced when Parliament sits in the first week of April.

"We will provide a short, sharp select committee process for feedback on the technical aspects of the changes. We are looking to progress the amendments to this legislation under urgency and expect these amendments to the Arms Act to be passed within the next session of Parliament.

An Order in Council under section 74A(c) of the Arms Act 1983 was signed by the Governor-General on 21 March to reclassify a wider range of semi-automatic weapons under the Act. The Arms (Military Style Semi-automatic Firearms) Order 2019 came into effect at 3pm.

“This interim measure will ensure that all of the weapons being banned under amendments to the Arms Act are now categorised as weapons requiring an E endorsement on a firearms licence," Police Minister Stuart Nash says.

“The effect of this is that it will prevent the sale of MSSAs and assault rifles to people with A category gun licences. The Order in Council is a transitional measure until the wider ban takes effect.

“We are introducing transitionary measures for gun owners to hand in their guns to Police to hold until details of a buy-back are announced. Likewise, the Police continue to accept guns for destruction.

“Again, we encourage gun owners to phone in to Police ahead of time to advise them they are bringing their guns in to the station,” Stuart Nash says.

The Arms Amendment Regulations 2019 also came into force at 3pm on 21 March. These introduced a new requirement for licensed dealers to update their records by 8 April 2019 so that the reclassified MSSAs are correctly recorded as military style semi-automatic firearms. Another amendment introduced an exclusion from the offence in section 50(1) of the Arms Act 1983 for those reclassified MSSAs that, under a Police amnesty scheme, a person delivers to the Police or sells or otherwise disposes of in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Cabinet decision

Ms Ardern says Cabinet agreed to overhaul the law when it met on Monday, 72 hours after the horrific terrorism act in Christchurch.

"Now, six days after this attack, we are announcing a ban on all military style semi-automatics (MSSA) and assault rifles in New Zealand.

“Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.

“An amnesty will be put in place for weapons to be handed in, and Cabinet has directed officials to develop a buyback scheme. Further details will be announced on the buyback in due course.

“All semi-automatic weapons used during the terrorist attack on Friday 15 March will be banned.

Legislation will have exemptions

Stuart Nash says the bill will include narrow exemptions for legitimate business use, which will include pest control. Police and the Defence Force will also have exemptions. Issues like access for mainstream international sporting competitions are also being worked through.

“We have also acknowledged that some guns serve legitimate purposes in our farming communities, and have therefore set out exemptions for 0.22 calibre rifles and shotguns commonly used for duck hunting. These will have limitations around their capacity.

“While the legislation is being drafted, I am announcing the Government will take immediate action today [21 March] to restrict the potential stock-piling of these guns and encourage people to continue to surrender their firearms."

Last updated on the 27th March 2019