New Zealand Law Society - Select committee recommends passage of arms control bill

Select committee recommends passage of arms control bill

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Parliament's Finance and Expenditure Committee has released its report on the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill with a recommendation that the bill be passed.

The bill would amend the Arms Act 1983, prohibiting from circulation and use in New Zealand most semiautomatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity, and some shotguns.

The committee notes that Parliament required it to report back within seven days. It says for this reason, the changes it recommends will be contained in a Supplementary Order Paper which it expects to be tabled by the sponsoring Minister, Police Minister Stuart Nash.

The committee received 13,062 submissions on the bill and heard oral evidence from 22 submitters in hearings in Wellington. It says of the submissions it received, about 60% supported the bill, 26% were opposed, and 14% expressed another view.

Addition of a "narrow exemption" is recommended to allow commercial businesses specialising in the control of wild animals or animal pests to use a prohibited item for pest-control purposes on private land or non-conservation Crown land in accordance with a specified Act.

The committee says it considered there would be some narrow circumstances where use of a prohibited firearm was absolutely necessary to carry out pest control on private land or non-conservation Crown land for conservation, environmental, or economic reasons. It believes the recommended exemption could be kept sufficiently narrow by applying the requirements for endorsement in clause 27 of the bill.

Deletion of a reference to "restricted airgun" in clause 19 of the bill is recommended, so that a person would not be required to have a permit to import any part of a restricted airgun. The bill as introduced would require such a permit and the committee says it believes this was inadvertent.

The addition of regulation-making powers to include a transitional exemption for manufacturers and exporters of prohibited items is recommended. This would not prevent them continuing their business pending further legislation.

The committee says it wants to clarify that bona fide collectors of firearms would be permitted to possess prohibited semi-automatic firearms under clause 8 of the bill. They would need to fulfill the requirements in clause 31.

To include provisions for the secure storage of a vital part, the committee also recommends inserting an additional condition of endorsement for bona fide collectors of firearms into clause 31, to require the removed vital part of a prohibited firearm to be stored at a separate address, which would be regulated by the Police.

The Green Party, National Party and ACT New Zealand committee members have also included statemenfs of their viewpoints. The Green and National Party members say they support the bill, while suggesting amendments, and ACT New Zealand says it opposes the way the legislation has been rushed through the parliamentary process and shares the view of the New Zealand Law Society "which submitted that such a process is likely to result in bad law".