New Zealand Law Society - Gun control bill introduced to Parliament

Gun control bill introduced to Parliament

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The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill has been introduced to Parliament by Police Minister Stuart Nash.

The bill has had its first reading and has been referred to the finance and expenditure select committee for what Mr Nash calls "a swift public submissions process". The committee has advised that written submissions close at 6pm on Wednesday 3 April with in-person submissions on 4 April.

The bill will return to Parliament next week to pass through its remaining stages. It is intended to come into force on 12 April, with the select committee required to report by 8 April.

The bill makes amendments to the Arms Act 1983. It has a stated commencement date of the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

The Parliamentary Counsel Office has produced what it calls an unofficial consolidation of the Arms Act to show the proposed amendments as introduced on 1 April. This is intended to assist public submissions and select committee consideration of the amendment bill and does not have any official status as a bill.

The bill's stated purpose is to tighten gun control to increase the safety and security of New Zealanders by reducing the risk of death or injury from guns. It recognises the extreme harm that results from the misuse of semi-automatic firearms.

The bill seeks to remove semi-automatic firearms from circulation and use by the general population in New Zealand. It does this by prohibiting semi-automatic firearms, magazines, and parts that can be used to assemble prohibited firearms.

The prohibition will include the existing category of semi-automatic firearms defined as Military Style Semi-Automatics (MSSAs), which are already subject to greater licensing controls under the Act compared with other types of firearms. The prohibition will extend beyond MSSAs to include most semi-automatic firearms, and some shotguns. Some small-calibre rimfire semi-automatic firearms and lesser-capacity shotguns are excluded from the prohibition. Those excluded firearms are commonly used in the farming, hunting, and recreational communities, and have a limited magazine capacity.

The bill inserts new provisions to provide a general prohibition on importing, selling, supplying, or possessing any of the following:

  • a semi-automatic firearm (other than a pistol), with some exceptions;
  • a pump-action shotgun that is capable of being used with a detachable magazine;
  • a pump-action shotgun that has a non-detachable tubular magazine or magazines that can hold more than 5 cartridges or magazines;
  • magazines for shotguns that can hold more than 5 cartridges;
  • magazines for any other firearm that are detachable and can hold 0.22 calibre or less rimfire cartridges and more than 10 of those cartridges, or more than 10 cartridges and can be used with a semi-automatic or fully automatic firearm;
  • any other magazine that can hold more than 10 cartridges;
  • a part of a prohibited firearm, including a component, that can be applied to enable, or take significant steps towards enabling, a firearm to be fired with, or near, a semi-automatic action.


A small number of firearms licence holders will be permitted to import, sell, supply, and possess semi-automatic firearms and other items for "genuine and justifiable reasons". They will need to apply to the Police to obtain the necessary approvals in order to qualify for the exemptions. Exemptions are provided for the following:

  • licensed dealers;
  • people employed or engaged by the Department of Conservation to lawfully kill or hunt wild animals or animal pests, or people who hold a concession granted by the Minister of Conservation to lawfully undertake wild animal recovery operations;
  • people employed or engaged by a management agency to lawfully kill or hunt wild animals or animal pests in accordance with the Biosecurity Act 1993;
  • bona fide collectors of firearms;
  • directors or curators of bona fide museums;
  • approved broadcasters, bona fide theatre companies or societies, or film or television production companies.

The bill provides that only a person in one of the exempted categories can possess or sell a prohibited item

Amnesties for return of prohibited items and all firearms

To allow prohibited items to be removed safely from the community, the bill provides an amnesty for prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts to be surrendered to licensed dealers and the Police by 30 September 2019.

The existing amnesty provision for licensed dealers in the Act is also expanded from pistols and restricted weapons to cover any prohibited firearms that they receive. The amnesty is necessary to help ensure that prohibited items are removed safely from the community, not only from current licensed firearms owners, but also from individuals who have inadvertently come into the possession of a prohibited item and want to relinquish the item in good faith.

A new type of ongoing amnesty is also provided for in the bill, to cover all types of firearms.

New penalties

The bill contains a number of new offences, and penalties ranging from 2 to 10 years' imprisonment. These include the following:

  • unlawful possession of prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts;
  • using or intending to use a prohibited firearm to resist arrest or commit offence;
  • unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm in a public place;
  • presenting a prohibited firearm at another person;
  • possession of a prohibited firearm while committing any offence that has a penalty of imprisonment for 3 years or more;
  • carrying a prohibited firearm with criminal intent;
  • importing prohibited items without a permit;
  • knowingly supplying or selling a prohibited firearm to person who does not hold a permit to import or possess one;
  • using a prohibited part to assemble or convert a firearm into a prohibited firearm;
  • knowingly supplying or selling a prohibited part.
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