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Sights on imported airguns and firearms in new gun laws

Sights on imported airguns and military style firearms in new gun laws

6 December 2013 - Police welcome new laws coming into effect next week that place import restrictions on some airguns and clarify the definition of military style semi-automatic firearms.

The Arms (Military Style Semi-automatic Firearms and Import Controls) Amendment Act was passed in 2012 and comes into effect on 11 December 2013.

It creates a new category of airgun – the restricted airgun. A restricted airgun is an airgun (with or without any of its attachments) that either:
• has the appearance of being a pistol, restricted weapon, or military style semi-automatic firearm (MSSA), or;
• is designed for use in airsoft or paintball sports and has the appearance of being a firearm capable of full automatic fire.

From Wednesday next week (11 December), anyone importing restricted airguns will require an import permit from Police. Police will need to be satisfied that there are special reasons for allowing them to be imported into New Zealand before they issue a permit.

Inspector Joe Green, Police Manager for Arms Control, says Police welcomes the amendment, which will help to address the proliferation of airguns that look like real pistols, restricted weapons and military style firearms. "This includes air soft guns which many people commonly think of as toys – although they are anything but," he says.

"Police have attended many incidents where these so-called 'toys' have been used to commit violent crime, or have been used to intimidate people, sometimes causing serious injury."

The law change also modifies the type of pistol grip that will make a semi-automatic rifle a MSSA.

From next week, some formerly A-category semi-automatic firearms will become MSSAs because of their free-standing pistol grip.

"What this means is that come 11 December, affected individuals need to either remove the grip and replace it with a stock of the appropriate A-category type; dispose of the weapon to a person with a Police permit to procure; or apply to Police for an endorsement permitting them to own that particular MSSA. Police are allowing firearms owners a lead in period (until 11 June 2014) to act," Mr Green says.

Police has communicated the upcoming changes with gun shop owners, gun clubs, hunting organisations and other interest groups.

More information for firearms owners:

Military style semi-automatic (MSSA) firearms pamphlet (PDF, 2.2MB)
Application for an “E” Endorsement (Military Style Semi-automatic Firearm – s.30B Arms Act 1983) - POL 67H (PDF, 104.05 KB)
Application to Make Endorsement Specific for a Military Style Semi-automatic Firearm - POL 67X (PDF, 97.54 KB)

Further background: New Zealand's arms control regime

The New Zealand arms control regime is centred on the licensing of individuals as fit and proper persons to possess firearms.

Those who wish to possess pistols, restricted weapons or military style semi automatic firearms (MSSAs) may apply for an endorsement on their firearms licence. In order to have the endorsement granted, they must demonstrate that they are both fit and proper and have cause to possess that firearm. The issuing of any such endorsement is subject to any direction from the Commissioner of Police.

Pistols, restricted weapons and MSSAs may only be sold or supplied to a person holding a permit to procure issued by a member of Police. Individuals are required to confirm having taken possession of these firearms where such a permit has been issued. Police use information from the permit process to record the details of the pistol, restricted weapon or MSSA against the person’s firearms licence.

As at May 2013, there were 237,684 registered firearms license holders in New Zealand. Of these, 13,743 held special endorsements relating to 51,834 firearms. Included in the special endorsement category are various collectors, target pistol and MSSA owners, as well as restricted firearms dealers.

Special reason criteria to import a pistol, restricted weapon, MSSA, or part thereof (from 11 December 2013)

Under s.18 of the Arms Act 1983 (the Act), before an application for a permit to import a pistol, military style semi-automatic firearm (MSSA) or restricted weapon can be granted, the Commissioner of Police must "first be satisfied there are special reasons why the pistol, military-style semi-automatic firearm or parts… should be allowed into New Zealand".

The words "special reason" are wide, comprehensive and flexible, meaning a broad range of matters may be taken into account. A special reason is a reason which sets it apart from the usual reasons which might be offered in such cases. Circumstances which in one case would be special reasons, in another case might not be such. Each application will be considered on its merits.

The case for a special reason is put by the applicant in writing with appropriate detail. Because the special reason is required as to why the item should be allowed into New Zealand, the application should also address the reasons why the item needs to be brought into the country and whether the same item is already available in New Zealand.

Subject to the Arms Act 1983, Arms Regulations 1992, and that an individual holds a firearms licence bearing the requisite endorsement, the accompanying table sets out examples of some reasons Police consider within the ambit of 'special reasons' for the purposes of s.18 of the Act.

Examples of some reasons Police consider within the ambit of "special reasons" for the purposes of s.18 Arms Act 1983

NOTE: In addition, for all applications, need to demonstrate the item is not readily available in New Zealand.

Restricted airgun (no firearms licence required other than by dealer)Possible special reason for import
Restricted airgunThe individual applying for the permit:

seeks to possess the restricted airgun as part of a collection, and demonstrates that it fits with and enhances an existing collection, or

participates in an identifiable shooting discipline or sport at an incorporated sports club with rules encouraging safe and legal use of firearms/airguns and a range certified for the shooting activity and intends to use the restricted airgun in an event at that sports club, or

wishes to use the restricted airgun in a capacity equivalent to that described in section 29(2)(e) of the Arms Act 1983 ('theatrical purposes'), or

wishes to replace an unsafe or unserviceable restricted airgun, or

requires the restricted airgun for occupational purposes, or

the individual applying for the permit to import demonstrates the special significance of that particular restricted airgun as an heirloom or memento, or

a dealer needs to import restricted airguns for the purposes of maintaining a stock of restricted airguns used for an identifiable shooting discipline or sport, or

a dealer is importing the restricted airgun as agent for an individual who has a special reason for importing that item, or

a dealer wishes to replace an unsafe or unserviceable restricted airgun.

ENDS

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