As part of the Government’s second tranche of gun law reforms, a firearms register was announced on 14 September 2019.
Following the ban in April on military-style semi-automatics, the new long-called-for firearms register will aim to monitor and track every firearm legally held in New Zealand.
Announcing the next round of changes in the Parliament, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the Government is taking steps to ensure gun ownership is restricted to responsible users.
“We know that the majority of gun crime is committed by people without a license, with firearms that have either been stolen or traded illegally.
“Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right; that means we need to do all we can to ensure that only honest, law-abiding citizens are able to obtain firearms licences and use firearms.”
She added that since 15 March, the Government’s focus “has been on ensuring that our communities are as protected as they can be from the potential for another attack.
“That attack exposed weaknesses in legislation, which we have the power to fix. We would not be a responsible Government if we didn’t address them.”
Police Minister Stuart Nash said that the Arms Act that came into force in 1983 is no longer fit for purpose, adding that there “are a number of significant changes within this bill and we need every one of them.”
The Bill will also establish a Commissioner’s Firearms Advisory Group that will include members of both the firearms community and non-firearms owning community.
“We know it is important we hear from all New Zealanders. The prevalence and use of firearms within our communities impact on every person in the community, whether they use firearms or not.”
He also encouraged people to make a submission through the select committee process. The registry will be an online self-service model–
a paper-based option will continue for people without easy access to computers or good connectivity–to make compliance easy for firearms owners and minimise the administrative burden for Police.
The Government added that the registry will hold the license holder’s full name, date of birth, and address along with details of their license number and any endorsements. It will also hold all transfers, sales, purchases, imports, and exports of firearms and other items.
Read more: Second raft of gun reforms announced
What this means for individual license holders
One of the biggest changes to be brought about is replacing the current 10-year license with a five-year one.
License holders will also see a stronger Police vetting system that the Government says will ensure “only those people who are genuinely fit and proper can own a firearm.”
Individuals will be disqualified if, in the previous 10 years, they have convictions or have been released from custody of serious crimes.
Pest controllers who have an exemption, which allows them to use the newly-prohibited weapons, will be also be required to renew that endorsement every two years.
For visitors to New Zealand, such as those on hunting trips, a short-term firearms license may be issued but they will not be able to buy a gun for possession in the country. However, they may bring their own and register it or lease one.
Gun Control NZ welcomed the new Bill and called on all political parties to support it.
“The measure in this gun law bill, including universal gun registration and shorter firearms license periods, are just common sense,” Gun Control NZ co-founder Hera Cook said.
“We all have to register our cars and our dogs, so gun owners should have to register their guns. We all have to accept regulation in order to make New Zealand safer.”
The Bill includes:
- The creation of a firearms registry to enable the monitoring and tracking of every firearm legally held in New Zealand.
- Changing the length of the time of issue for a firearms licence from 10 years to five years
- The creation of a licensing regime for shooting clubs and ranges
- A requirement to be a licence holder in order to purchase and hold firearm parts, magazines, and ammunition
- Strengthening and tightening the rules in the licensing regimes for individuals and dealers
- Conditions on firearms licences and changes to endorsements
- Updated and new offences and penalties
- Provisions to enable health practitioners to notify Police if they have concerns about a licence firearms owner’s health or wellbeing
- New mechanisms and options for dealing with firearm licence holders who breach conditions of the Act or Regulations
- Strengthening regulatory oversight on importation and sales
- Changes to the cost recovery regime that will enable fees to be set out in regulations for a range of regulatory services
National outline changes
Following the Government’s announcement, National outlined 13 changes they want to see in the reforms.
“The Government has unduly focused responsibility and regulation on law-abiding gun owners and has not done enough to address access to guns by gangs and those involved in criminal activity,” National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson said.
The amendments proposed by the Opposition include a few outside the scope of the Bill, such as “removing excessive regulatory powers from the Act, introducing new and consistent exemptions for sports shooting, providing for greater flexibility for pest control exemptions, adding common-sense amendments for collector exemptions, amending the fit and proper person test to require some clear rules for assessing patterns of behaviour, and requiring common-sense rules for visitors purchasing firearms over prohibition (see full changes below).
“The overwhelming majority of firearm owners are good, law-abiding citizens. National wants to see reforms that will focus on people who could pose a risk to society and won’t unduly impact law-abiding New Zealanders.”
National’s proposed changes to Arms Bill
- Introducing Firearms Prohibition Orders
- Adding flexibility to dealer licences given the wider remit being proposed
- Introducing clearer and more flexible rules for clubs
- Introducing clearer and more flexible rules for sporting ranges
- Ensuring the Register is clearly defined in legislation
- Keeping licence duration the same as it is today
- Including safeguards on healthcare practitioners reporting to Police
- Removing excessive regulatory powers from the Act
- Introducing new and consistent exemptions for sports shooting
- Providing for greater flexibility for pest control exemptions
- Adding common-sense amendments for collector exemptions
- Amending the fit and proper person test to require some clear rules for assessing patterns of behaviour
- Requiring common-sense rules for visitors purchasing firearms over prohibition
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