New Zealand Law Society - New firearms system will be established

New firearms system will be established

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The Arms Legislation Bill has passed its third reading.

The Government says the bill is intended to improve public safety by adjusting legislative frameworks to impose tighter controls on the use and possession of arms.

It’s the second major piece of legislation to be introduced after the terrorist attack in Christchurch in 2019 which led to the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill.

“The 15th of March 2019 is a devastating date in our history. But it does not define us. What defines us is the actions we took to stop such a terror attack happening again,” says Minister of Police Stuart Nash.

“The new law is designed to stop firearms falling into the wrong hands. It spells out for the first time that owning a firearm is a privilege, limited to responsible licensed owners.

“The most significant change is the new firearms registry. Successive governments have failed to deliver a register since it was first recommended by Justice Sir Thomas Thorp in 1997. This will finally track how many firearms are in legal circulation, who holds them, who is selling them, and who is buying them.

“Once it’s established every licence holder will need to keep updating the registry as they buy or sell guns.”

The immediate changes expected next week are:

  • Reduced length of firearms licence from 10 to 5 years for first time licence holders and those who have previously had their licence revoked or allowed it to expire;
  • Offences and penalties have been changed to better reflect the seriousness of the offending. Examples include possessing a firearm without a licence which now has a penalty of up to one year in prison or a $15,000 fine; and selling a firearm to an unlicensed person which carries up to a two year jail sentence or $20,000 fine;
  • Further high-risk firearms are prohibited including short (pistol-length) semi-automatic rifles. There are new requirements for lawful possession of a pistol carbine conversion kit which converts a pistol into a shoulder-fired firearm;
  • Endorsements for pest control now have a shorter duration and will need to be renewed before the firearms licence expires;
  • More people involved in agricultural and similar businesses can obtain endorsements to possess prohibited firearms where it can be clearly demonstrated these are needed for pest control purposes;
  • Those who come to New Zealand who are issued a licence for up to a year will no longer be able to purchase and take ownership of a firearm in New Zealand.
  • A Ministerial Arms Advisory group will be established to ensure there is ongoing support and advice on firearms matters.

Some changes will follow over a three-year period, including:

  • New rules will take effect in six months to determine who is “fit and proper” to possess firearms and who will be disqualified from holding a firearms licence.
  • The “fit and proper” person status is at the core of any application for a firearms licence. Every person applying must be responsible and trustworthy enough to earn the privilege of holding a firearms licence;
  • There will be new rules in one year governing a gun dealer’s licence, to recognise the range of dealer activities and associated risks of theft or misuse of firearms;
  • In six months’ anyone who sells ammunition will need a firearms licence;
  • After two years there will be new requirements for shooting clubs and ranges, which previously were not governed by law.