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Auditor-General's Report - Implementing The Firearms Buy-back And Amnesty Scheme

The Auditor-General’s report Implementing the firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme was presented to the House of Representatives today.

On 15 March 2019, attacks at two Christchurch mosques left 51 people dead and a great many others with permanent injuries. The violence on that day deeply affected the Muslim community, the first responders and hospital staff, the residents of Christchurch, and all New Zealanders.

As part of the response to the attacks, Parliament passed the legislation in April 2019 that prohibited firearms with the ability to cause harm in a rapid and highly destructive way from a distance. The legislation included a provision for a firearms buy-back and amnesty scheme, which allowed firearms owners to hand in their prohibited items for destruction. Firearms licence holders would receive compensation for the prohibited items they handed in.

Implementing the scheme was a complex, challenging, and high-risk task, and the New Zealand Police had to do it in tight time frames. The Police managed the scheme well, providing people with many opportunities to hand in their prohibited items. We found that the Police, firearms assessors, and support staff treated people handing in firearms with empathy and respect. Firearms assessors were trained extensively to make fair decisions on compensating people for their firearms.

The Police’s provisional information, as at 13 February 2020, showed that 61,332 newly prohibited firearms had been collected and destroyed, or modified by Police-approved gunsmiths so that they comply with the new requirements and remain the property of their owners.

However, the Police still have much work to do to complete the scheme. This includes completing, compensation of firearms dealers for their stock, processing of endorsements to use newly prohibited firearms for a limited range of purposes (for example, for pest control), and processing of applications for the modification of firearms to comply with the new requirements.

Importantly, neither the Police nor any other agency know how many prohibited firearms, magazines, and parts were in the community when the law was changed. Without this information, we do not yet know how effective the scheme was and whether implementing the scheme has delivered value for money. More work should be done to find out what level of compliance with the scheme has been achieved and the extent to which it has made New Zealanders safer.

An epub and one-page summary are also available for this report. Hard copies of this report are currently unavailable.

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