A new firearms register, announced by the Government today, will help stop the flow of guns into the criminal underground's black market, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said today.
In the second tranche of gun law reforms, following April's ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles, will introduced the long-called for firearms register, which will aim to monitor and track every firearm legally held in New Zealand.
The Police Association has been lobbying for a gun register for years but it is likely to further anger gun lobby groups already upset with the Government's buyback scheme for recently banned firearms.
The announcement was made in Christchurch today by Police Minister Stuart Nash and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said: "Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right."
The largely-online register has been described being similar to the motor vehicle register operated by the NZ Transport Agency and will take five years to roll out.
It will hold the licence holder's full name, date of birth and address, along with details of their licence number and any endorsements; details of firearms, restricted weapons and prohibited magazines including identifying markings and information on storage; and record all transfers, sales, purchases, imports and exports of firearms and other items. Private sales will still be permitted.
The Arms Legislation Bill will also improve the authorities' ability to monitor firearms lawfully entering and exiting the country and help combat organised crime, Ardern said.
It also introduces new offences and higher penalties and will see New Zealand accede to the United Nations (UN) Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition (the Firearms Protocol).
"We know that the majority of gun crime is committed by people without a licence, with firearms that have either been stolen or traded illegally," Ardern said as she announced the new gun laws in Christchurch today, six months after the mosque shootings in the city.
"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."
The April gun reforms took action to remove military-style semi-automatics while the new steps are aimed at stopping guns from reaching the hands of criminals, the Prime Minister added.
"Our focus since March 15 has been on ensuring that our communities are as protected as they can be from the potential for another attack like the horrific one we witnessed in Christchurch," she said.
"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."
Nash says the Arms Act, which came into force in 1983, is no longer fit for purpose.
Although there are "a number of significant changes" in the new bill, Nash said, "We need every one of them."
He cited figures that around 18,204 firearms offences have been committed in the four calendar years 2015-2018, ranging from homicides, to robbery, intimidation, failing to comply with the Arms Act licensing regime, carrying a loaded firearm in a vehicle.
"We must take steps to tighten our gun laws to ensure the safety of all New Zealanders," Nash said.
The bill, which will be reviewed five years after it has been enacted, will establish a Commissioner's Firearms Advisory Group, which will include members of both the firearms community and non-firearms owning community, to "support achieving the objectives" of the Arms Act, Nash says.
He encouraged people to also make submissions through the select committee process, with the Arms Legislation Bill having its first reading on September 24.
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.