New Zealand Law Society - Consultation on firearms prohibition orders begins

Consultation on firearms prohibition orders begins

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Police Minister Stuart Nash has released a consultation document with proposals for Firearms Prohibition Orders, which would give Police new powers to ensure that high-risk individuals come nowhere near firearms.

The document seeks views on whether or not a Firearms Prohibition Order regime should be established, and what it could look like. Consultation will close at 5pm on Monday, 13 January 2020.

The discussion document says the Government is currently considering changes to the Arms Act 1983 that would strengthen the regulatory framework. The firearms licensing system ensures that only those considered ‘fit and proper’ to own firearms can gain a firearms licence.

"The changes proposed in the Arms Legislation Bill address system weaknesses in the licensing framework and seek to reduce the risk of firearms getting into the wrong hands. The bill introduces new penalties for unlawful use of firearms, but is not primarily focussed on unlawful use of firearms by unlicensed people. Firearms Prohibition Orders are intended to reduce the likelihood of harm by the criminal use of firearms by such people.

"Firearms Prohibition Orders prohibit those people who have a history of serious violence offences, firearms offences, or breaches of Protection Orders from accessing, being around, or using firearms. Breaching conditions of a Firearms Prohibition Order would be a criminal offence. Firearms Prohibition Orders assume that people who have committed offences such as serious violence offences, firearms offences or breached Protection Orders, are more likely to commit similar offences in the future.

"If implemented in New Zealand, Firearms Prohibition Orders would apply to people considered ‘high-risk’ because they have been convicted of serious violence offences, firearms offences, or breaches of Protection Orders. These restrictions go above and beyond those possible in the firearms licensing system."

The consultation document notes that Firearms Prohibition Orders have been introduced in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.

It says the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 does not include a right to possess or access firearms - "the possession and use of firearms is a privilege, not a right."

However, it says that while constraining access to firearms does not remove any rights, Firearms Prohibition Orders could affect some rights set out in the NZBORA, in the same way that other supervision, protection or prohibition orders may also impact on those rights and freedoms.