New Zealand Law Society - New firearms legislation proposals released

New firearms legislation proposals released

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The Government has released details of new firearms legislation it plans to introduce.

The proposed Arms Amendment Bill is being drafted and due for introduction in late August 2019.

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the legislation will spend three months at select committee for public feedback.

In a joint statement with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Mr Nash says the focus of the new legislation is a firearms register, tighter licensing system for gun owners and a new emphasis on safety and personal responsibility.

They say the next Arms Amendment Bill will:

  • Establish a register of firearms and licence holders to be rolled out over 5 years.
  • Tighten the rules to get and keep a firearms licence.
  • Tighten the rules for gun dealers to get and keep a licence.
  • Require licences to be renewed every five years.
  • Introduce a new system of warning flags so Police can intervene and seek improvement if they have concerns about a licence holder’s behaviour.
  • Prohibit visitors to New Zealand from buying a gun.
  • Establish a licensing system for shooting clubs and ranges for the first time.
  • Set up a new formal group to give independent firearms advice to Police, which will include people from within and outside the gun-owning community.
  • Provide for new controls on firearms advertising.
  • Require a licence to buy magazines, parts and ammunition.
  • Increase penalties and introduce new offences.
  • Enshrine in law that owning a firearm is a privilege and comes with an obligation to demonstrate a high level of safety and responsibility.

“Our gun laws date from 1983 and are dangerously out date," Ms Ardern says. "Since then the firearms manufacturing industry and the ability to buy and sell online has markedly changed. Successive governments have known since the Thorp review of 1997 that our gun laws were too weak. Further attempts to change the system in 2005 and 2016 both failed."

“Owning a gun is a privilege, not a right,” Mr Nash says.

“The proposed changes will spell out the duties and obligations that come with that privilege. The vast majority of our gun owners are law abiding and responsible. The law changes will reinforce the positive behaviour that is required of all gun owners.

“Under the current law, we do not know exactly how many guns are in circulation, who owns them, who is selling them, who is buying them, or how securely they are stored against the risk of theft or misuse.

“There are more than 260 shooting clubs and ranges which operate without any system of licensing.

“Police have very few options for intervening when they see concerning behaviour. Revoking a firearms licence can only happen for the most serious cases and can take weeks, during which time the guns can be given away or disappear without trace.

“The administration of the system is also very outdated. There are higher penalties for unlawfully taking fish than for some firearms offences. It is cheaper to get a gun licence than a dog licence. We need to modernise the system."

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