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Tighter gun laws for the safety of all

The Government is taking steps to ensure gun ownership is restricted to responsible users, and to stop the flow of guns into the black market as legislation is introduced to Parliament today, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.

“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.

“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,” Jacinda Ardern says.

“In April, we took action to remove military style semi-automatics from our communities. Now we are taking the next step; to prevent firearms from reaching the hands of criminals.

“Our focus since 15 March 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.

“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.

“The Bill includes a register to track firearms and new offences and penalties that can be applied extraterritorially for illegal manufacture, trafficking, and for falsifying, removing, or altering markings – which are a new requirement under the Firearms Protocol.”

“For example, every person who is currently found guilty of selling or supplying a firearm to an unlicensed person is liable for a term of imprisonment not exceeding 3 months or a fine of $1,000. This Bill will increase those penalties to 2 years and $20,000 respectively.

“Some of the changes in this bill will improve our ability to monitor firearms lawfully entering and exiting the country and enhance our ability to combat organised crime. New Zealand will accede to the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition (the Firearms Protocol).

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the Arms Act came into force in 1983 and is no longer fit for purpose.

“It’s 2019, we need to ensure Police have the tools and legislation behind them that they need to keep our communities safe,” Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

“I am absolutely committed to that. There are a number of significant changes within this bill and we need every one of them.

“Around 18,204 firearms offences have been committed in the four calendar years 2015-2018. These offences range 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.

“We also want to make sure we are getting the balance right, so the bill will establish a Commissioner’s Firearms Advisory Group to support achieving the objectives of the Arms Act.”

The group will include members of both the firearms community and non-firearms owning community.

“We know it’s important we hear from all New Zealanders. The prevalence and use of firearms within our communities impacts on every person in the community, whether they use firearms or not.

“I also encourage people to make submissions through the select committee process, we want to hear your voice.

“Parliament will review the Bill five years after it has been enacted so we can be sure it is working how we intend it to.

“The aim of these changes is to keep our communities safe by strengthening the framework for the safe use and control of firearms,” Stuart Nash said.

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.

The Arms Legislation Bill will have its first reading on Tuesday 24 September.

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