New Zealand Law Society - Arms Legislation Bill introduced

Arms Legislation Bill introduced

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The Arms Legislation Bill was introduced on 13 September 2019. The Minister for Police Stuart Nash is in charge of the bill.

The bill is an omnibus bill and amends the Arms Act 1983.

Clause 5 inserts a new purpose for the Arms Act – to promote the safe possession and use of firearms and other weapons and to impose controls on their possession and use.

Clause 6 amends section 2, and inserts definitions for new terms used, including ammunition seller, arms item, dealer activity, health practitioner, registry, and visitor. This clause also amends the definition of antique firearm so that it does not include a firearm manufactured after 1899 and amends the definition of part to include a silencer.

New section 5 specifies the activities that, if carried on in relation to any class of arms item, require a dealer’s licence. For example, selling, hiring, lending a class of arms items; possessing arms items for auction or repairing or modifying a class of arms items.

The Bill strengthens the licensing regime to enhance public safety. The Bill enables positive behaviours, skills, and knowledge to be indicators that a person is likely to be a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence (clause 36 inserting new sections 24A to 24C). The Police may consider any matters they think appropriate, but new section 24A(1) lists circumstances detrimental to an application that the Police may take into account, including whether the applicant has been charged with or convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment, has had a protection order made against them or has exhibited significant mental health issues or issues with drugs or alcohol that adversely affects their ability to safely possess firearms.

A person who has had a conviction for serious offending, or a final protection order made against them, would not be able to apply for or hold a licence for 10 years (clause 33 inserting new section 22G).

Health practitioners will have a responsibility to consider notifying Police if, after seeing or being consulted about a patient, they consider the person should not be permitted to use or possess firearms or should only do so subject to limitations that may be warranted by their mental or physical condition. Part of this notification will include an assessment of whether they believe the person poses a risk of harm to themselves or to others (Clause 83 inserting new section 91). Licence holders may then be required to undergo a further medical assessment or surrender their licence. To assist with this, applicants for firearms licences must provide contact details for their health practitioner to Police (clause 34 amending section 23 (applications for a firearms licence).

Clause 37 amends section 25 (duration of firearms licence)so that individual firearms licences will be issued for 5 years (previously 10 years) to enable a more regular reassessment of a licence holder’s patterns of behaviour, living and security arrangements, and whether there are any circumstances that may mean they are not a fit and proper person to hold a licence.

Clause 36 inserts new section 24B which provides for general conditions on all firearms licences and will require licence holders to act in a way that does not pose a risk to themselves or others when using a firearm, and permit Police to inspect firearms and their storage and security arrangements. Police will also be able to inspect the security arrangements in vehicles when firearms are in transit

Dealers licensing regime

The bill broadens the activities covered by a dealer’s licence to be in the business of selling, possessing, supplying, hiring, manufacturing (for which approval is required), repairing, modifying, displaying, or otherwise carrying out commercial transactions involving a class of arms items (clause 10 inserting new section 5). It expands the criteria for being a fit and proper person to hold a dealer’s licence (who must first have a firearms licence and therefore meet those criteria) (new section 6).These matters include whether the applicant has the competencies and resources to carry on the dealer activities for which the licence is sought, has any convictions, and has an understanding of the legal obligations of a licensed dealer.

If the dealer is a senior manager of a body corporate, the body corporate must have appropriate record keeping and other systems to comply with the requirements under the Act and regulations, have suitable staff, and have appropriate control and oversight (new section 6(b)).

Clause 17 amends section 13 (seizure of firearms, ammunition, airguns, pistols, prohibited items, and restricted weapons held by licensed dealers). The amendment adds magazines and parts to this list so that magazines and parts held by licensed dealers may also be seized.

Clause 18 amends section 14, which provides for the disposal of firearms, ammunition, airguns, pistols, prohibited items and restricted weapons by a licensed dealer after the revocation of their licence. The amendment adds magazines to this list so that a licensed dealer may also dispose of magazines in their possession when their licence is revoked.

Clause 21 replaces section 16, which requires a person to have a permit to bring arms into New Zealand. References to a blank-firing gun replace the current references to a starting pistol, and a permit must now be obtained to bring non-prohibited ammunition into New Zealand.

New section 19A expressly provides that a person may not have in their possession a prohibited firearm or prohibited magazine unless they hold a dealer’s licence, or a firearms licence that bears an appropriate endorsement that, following the issue of a permit to possess, has been made specific to the particular prohibited firearm or prohibited magazine

New section 19B expressly provides that a person may not have in their possession a prohibited part unless they are an exempt person of at least 18 years of age and hold a licence that bears an endorsement permitting them to possess a prohibited firearm or prohibited magazine.

Clause 31 inserts new sections 22A to 22F. These sections provide for restrictions on non-prohibited magazines, non-prohibited parts, possessing, selling supplying ammunition, record keeping, ownership of firearms, airguns, and restricted weapons by visitors and on manufacture of prohibited items.

Clause 35 amends section 24 (issue of a firearms licence). Before issuing a licence, a member of the Police must inspect the applicant’s storage facilities and be satisfied that the facilities comply with the requirements for the secure storage of firearms and ammunition.

Clause 44 replaces section 30A, (applications for endorsements in respect of prohibited firearms and prohibited magazines). New section 30A separately identifies, as persons who may make an application under this section, exempt persons described in section 4A(1) (b) to (i).

The Bill updates a number of penalties in the Act to make them more fit for purpose and commensurate with the seriousness of the offending (clauses 56 to 72, Part 8), increasing the penalties in some cases and creating new offences including using illegal parts (s55D), illegal trafficking (s55E), falsifying firearm markings (s55F) or removing firearm markings (s55G). The Bill also includes new offences related to the supply of information required for the registry (clause 71 inserting section 58A).

New section 60 enables the Police to issue an improvement notice if they reasonably believe that a person with a firearms or dealer’s licence is failing to comply with the Act.

Clause 79 inserts new section 66A replaces section 39 and requires the owner of a firearm, prohibited magazine, prohibited part, restricted weapon, non-prohibited part, or non-prohibited magazine that is lost, stolen, or destroyed to immediately notify the Police and give the Police all information in their possession relating to the loss, theft, or destruction.

Clause 82 amends and expands section 74, under which regulations may be made.

New sections 92 and 93 provide for a registry to be kept and operated for the purposes of the principal Act. The registry must record, for every licence held under the principal Act, the licence holder’s full name, date of birth, address, and licence number, the date of expiry of the licence, every endorsement on the licence, every condition on an endorsement, and particulars that regulations made under section 74 require to be recorded in the registry.

Section 82 and clause 17 of Schedule 1 come into force on the day after the date on which this Act receives the Royal assent. The rest of this Act comes into force on a date appointed by the Governor-General by Order in Council.

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