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Tighter gun laws to enhance public safety

Police Minister Stuart Nash has introduced legislation changing firearms laws to improve public safety following the Christchurch terror attacks.

“Every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack will be banned,” Mr Nash says. “Owning a gun is a privilege not a right. Too many people have legal access to semi-automatic firearms which are capable of causing significant harm.”

“The attack exposed considerable weaknesses in our laws. The firearms, magazines and parts used by the terrorist were purchased lawfully and modified into MSSAs due to legal loopholes. Our priority is to enhance public safety and wellbeing by urgent changes to the law.

“It is important to reiterate the legislation introduced today is not directed at law-abiding firearms owners who have legitimate uses for their guns. Our actions are instead directed at making sure this never happens again,” Mr Nash says.

The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill will:
• Ban semi-automatic weapons and military style semi-automatics (MSSAs)
• Ban parts, magazines and ammunition which can be used to assemble a prohibited firearm or convert a lower-powered firearm into a semi-automatic
• Ban pump action shotguns with more than a five shot capacity
• Ban semi-automatic shotguns with a capacity to hold a detachable magazine, or with an internal magazine capable of holding more than five cartridges
• Exempt some semi-automatic firearms, such as .22 calibres and shotguns, which have limited ammunition capacity
• Create tougher penalties and introduce new offences
• Create new definitions of prohibited firearms, prohibited magazines, prohibited parts and prohibited ammunition
• Establish an amnesty for firearms owners who take steps to hand over unlawful weapons, parts, magazines and ammunition to Police by 30 September 2019

“The misuse of semi-automatic weapons has caused death and injury at our places of worship. It has left a nationwide legacy of harm, pain and grief,” Mr Nash says.

“The men, women and children who died and suffered injuries at the mosques now have their own legacy. We will tighten gun laws to improve the safety and security of all New Zealanders. Their memory is our responsibility.

“The Arms Amendment Bill will have its first reading tomorrow, and be referred to a Select Committee for a swift public submissions process. It will return to Parliament next week to pass through its remaining stages. It is intended to come into force on 12 April, the day after the Royal Assent.

“Further announcements are due shortly on the administration and parameters of the buyback scheme,” Mr Nash says.

Questions and Answers

1. What are the new prohibitions?
• Prohibited firearms include semi-automatics and MSSAs; and shotguns with detachable magazines or internal magazines which hold more than five rounds.
• Prohibited magazines include those holding more than 5 cartridges for a shotgun; more than ten cartridges for a .22 calibre rimfire weapon; and any other magazine capable of holding more than ten cartridges.
• Prohibited parts include any component of a prohibited firearm, or any component that can enable a firearm to be used as a semi-automatic or fully automatic weapon. Examples could include bump stocks, free-standing pistol grips and silencers.
• Prohibited ammunition will include certain types of military ammunition as defined by the Governor General through Order in Council. Examples could include armour piercing ammunition.

2. Are any semi-automatic firearms exempted from the changes?

A small number of firearms owners have a legitimate use for weapons with a larger capacity. Semi-automatic firearms which are commonly used for hunting, pest control, stock management on farms, and duck shooting will not be affected. These are:
• Semi-automatic .22 calibre rimfire firearms with a magazine which holds no more than ten rounds
• Semi-automatic and pump action shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine which holds no more than five rounds

3. What about licensed owners who have a professional reason for having a semi-automatic or another prohibited firearm?

• There will be exemptions for specially licensed dealers, bona fide collectors, museum curators and firearms used during dramatic productions, as there are now. They must take steps to disable the weapon and follow other guidelines around security and safety.
• Authorised pest controllers governed by s.100 of the Biosecurity Act may be permitted by Police to own a semi-automatic
• There are exemptions for Police and Defence Force personnel.
• There is no exemption for international sporting competitions. Further advice is needed and it may be considered as part of the second Arms Amendment Bill which is likely later this year

4. What are the new penalties and offences?

• maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment:
o using a prohibited firearm to resist arrest

• maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment:
o unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm in a public place
o presenting a prohibited firearm at another person
o carrying a prohibited firearm with criminal intent
o possessing a prohibited firearm while committing any offence that has a maximum penalty of 3 years or more

• maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment:
o importing a prohibited item
o unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm
o supplying or selling a prohibited firearm or magazine
o intentionally using a prohibited part to assemble or convert a firearm into a prohibited weapon

• maximum penalty of 2 years:
o possessing a prohibited part or magazine
o supplying or selling a prohibited part

5. How does the amnesty work?
The amnesty means firearms owners who now inadvertently possess a prohibited weapon, magazine, part, or ammunition can hand it over to Police or a licensed dealer without fear of being penalised. Any other firearm, magazine, parts and ammunition not affected by the ban can also be handed over.
Around 200 firearms have already been handed over.
More than 1400 calls have been made to the dedicated Police line 0800 311311
Around 900 online web forms have been filled in at www.police.govt.nz

6. How will the buyback work?
Police and the Treasury are working on the details of the buyback. The underlying principle is that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid. It will take into account the age and type of weapon, and the market value. It is estimated it will cost between $100 million and $200 million.

7. What measures are likely to be included in the next Arms Amendment Bill, later in 2019?

Several issues require more analysis and advice from Police, other government agencies and affected groups. This will take time to get right. These include:
• A register of firearms
• Licensing of firearms owners and the Police vetting process for a ‘fit and proper person’
• The Police inspection and monitoring regime, such as rules around storage of firearms

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