Arms Amendment Act report presented to Parliament

The final report in the fast tracked Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill has been reported back to Parliament, seven days after first being introduced, and after two days of public submissions and one day of oral submissions.

The Finance and Expenditure Committee recommends that the bill be passed, but with minor amendments.

The amendments show that the committee has at least listened to some concerns expressed in submisssions.

Key parts of the report (some edits and omissions):


The bill’s proposed changes include:

  • defining the following items as prohibited:
    o all military-style semi-automatic firearms (MSSAs)
    o semi-automatic firearms, other than those capable of firing only 0.22 or lower calibre rimfire cartridges from a magazine that can hold no more than 10 cartridges or semi-automatic shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold no more than 5 cartridges
    o pump-action shotguns that can be used with a detachable magazine
    o pump-action shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold more than 5 cartridges
    o any magazines and parts that would enable a firearm to be converted into a prohibited firearm
  • exempting limited categories of licence holders who could apply to import, sell, supply, and possess these prohibited items
  • providing a strict regulatory regime for these prohibited items
  • introducing new offences and penalties relating to these prohibited items
  • providing for an amnesty period, until 30 September 2019, for people to surrender prohibited items
  • providing for the definition of prohibited firearm, prohibited magazine, and prohibited ammunition to be amended, replaced, or declared by Order in Council.

The amendments set out in the bill would be the first in a set of reforms to the Arms Act which have been signalled by the Government.

Prohibited items

The bill would prohibit most semi-automatic firearms (other than pistols), and some shotguns, from circulation and use in New Zealand’s general population. These firearms, whether they are currently classified as an A Category or E Category firearm, would no longer be generally available.

Some small-calibre rimfire semi-automatic firearms, such as those capable of firing only 0.22 or lower calibre rimfire cartridges from a magazine that can hold no more than 10 cartridges, and lesser-capacity shotguns that can hold no more than 5 cartridges, would be excluded from the prohibition. These firearms are commonly used for hunting and farming, and have a
limited magazine capacity.

The bill would also prohibit:

  • magazines used with shotguns that can hold more than 5 cartridges
  • magazines used with any other firearm (except a pistol) that can hold more than 10 cartridges
  • parts that can convert firearms into prohibited firearms.

Exemptions

The bill would provide some narrow exemptions so that certain categories of licensed gun owners could apply to import, supply, sell, or possess prohibited items. Exempt categories of people would include:

  • licensed dealers
  • bona fide collectors of firearms
  • bona fide museum curators or directors
  • approved broadcasters, bona fide theatre companies or societies, and film or television production companies
  • people engaged by the Department of Conservation, or by a management agency under the Biosecurity Act 1993, to kill or hunt wild animals or animal pests
  • a person authorised by the Minister of Conservation to undertake wild animal recovery
    operations.

Suggested amendments to the bill

Exemption for commercial wild animal or animal pest control businesses

We recommend adding a narrow exemption to allow commercial businesses specialising in the control of wild animals or animal pests to use a prohibited item for pest-control purposes on private land or non-conservation Crown land in accordance with a specified Act.

The bill as introduced would provide an exemption for persons carrying out pest control who are employed or engaged by the Department of Conservation or a management agency in accordance with the Biosecurity Act. However, these exemptions would not cover pest control on private land, such as farms, or non-conservation Crown land.

We consider that there would be some narrow circumstances where use of a prohibited firearm was absolutely necessary to carry out pest control on private land or non-conservation Crown land for conservation, environmental, or economic reasons. Our recommendation would allow a private landowner to engage a wild animal or animal pest control business to use such firearms while still removing most semi-automatic firearms from circulation.

We recommend that wild animals or animal pests, under the specified Acts referred to in clause 8 of the bill as introduced, include Canada Geese.

Airsoft and paintball guns

Airguns used in airsoft and paintball sports come under the definition of airgun, not firearm, in the Arms Act. This means that such airguns would not be affected by the prohibitions in the bill.

Under the Arms Act at present, a person must have a permit to import a restricted airgun. This is any airgun that looks like a restricted weapon, military-style semi-automatic firearm, or pistol. The bill would keep and extend this requirement to include any airgun that looks like a prohibited firearm as defined in clause 5, section 2A.

Exemption for firearms collectors

We wish to clarify that bona fide collectors of firearms would be permitted to possess prohibited semi-automatic firearms under clause 8 of the bill, which would insert new section 4A(1)(b) into the Act.

For a person to obtain an endorsement on their licence to possess a prohibited item as a bona fide collector, they would need to fulfil the requirements in clause 31, section 33A.

Conditions of endorsement for collectors of firearms

Clause 65(2), section 74(1)(ha) of the bill as introduced would allow regulations to be made to provide for the secure storage of a vital part of a prohibited firearm possessed by a bona fide collector, to render it inoperable. The regulations would also prescribe precautions to be taken to prevent the theft or misuse of a vital part.

We consider that provisions for the secure storage of a vital part should be included in the principal Act. Therefore, we recommend inserting an additional condition of endorsement for bona fide collectors of firearms into clause 31, to require the removed vital part of a prohibited firearm to be stored at a separate address, which would be regulated by the Police.

The Green Party and the NZ Police Association opposed this.

Exemption for people with heirloom or memento firearms

We recommend adding a narrow exemption that would allow people to possess a prohibited firearm or prohibited magazine that clearly has special significance as an heirloom or memento.

We recommend that our suggested exemption be subject to the same conditions ofendorsement that clause 31 of the bill as introduced would apply to bona fide collectors.

Proof of unlawful possession

Clause 49 of the bill would insert new sections 50A to 50C into the Act to introduce new offences for unlawful possession of prohibited firearms, magazines, or parts. These provisions would be covered by the “reverse onus of proof” provision in section 66 of the Arms Act. This means that the owner of any land, building, or vehicle where a prohibited item was found would be presumed to be in possession of it unless they could prove otherwise.

As introduced, it would create the possibility of an innocent person being wrongly convicted if they were in possession of a part that could be fitted to both a non-prohibited and prohibited firearm.

Therefore, we recommend amending clause 49, section 50C(a) to ensure that a person who had reasonable excuse to possess a prohibited part would not be criminalised for possessing it. For the same reason, we also recommend deleting “prohibited part” in clause 61, which would amend section 66 of the Act.

Order in Council powers

Power to amend definitions

The Order in Council powers in the bill as introduced (clause 66, sections 74A and 74B) would allow the Governor-General to “amend and replace the description” of prohibited items in new sections 2A and 2B. We consider this power to be broader than the existing Order in Council powers in section 74A of the Arms Act. The existing section provides for militarystyle semi-automatic firearms, and features of these firearms, to be defined, described, and declared by Order in Council.

We recommend amending clause 66, section 74A(a) and (b) to state “amend the description”, rather than “amend and replace the description”. Our amendment would constrain the Order in Council powers in the bill as introduced.

Transition period for future Orders in Council

We recommend inserting a provision into clause 65, section 74 to allow the GovernorGeneral to make regulations to declare a limited amnesty period for possession offences created by future Orders in Council.

Comments for clarification

Suppressors, silencers, and sights

Suppressors, silencers, and sights that are fitted to, designed for, or intended to be used on an A Category firearm by a person who lawfully holds an A Category licence would not be prohibited by the bill.

As an example, a suppressor, silencer, or sight fitted to, designed for, or intended to be used on a firearm prohibited under the bill would be considered a prohibited part. However, if the prohibited firearm was surrendered and the suppressor, silencer, or sight was then intended for use on a non-prohibited firearm, it would no longer be a prohibited part.

Competitive shooting sports

We do not recommend an exemption for sporting competitors or competitions.

We consider an exemption unnecessary because the bill would not prevent people from competing in shooting disciplines at the Olympic or Commonwealth Games. In addition, we believe that people who compete in the 3-gun discipline would be able to use a 0.22 or lower calibre semi-automatic firearm, rather than a 0.223 calibre semi-automatic firearm, to continue to participate in the discipline.

The purpose of the bill is to prohibit the use of most semi-automatic firearms in New Zealand in order to reduce the risk of death or injury resulting from their misuse. We believe that providing an exemption for sporting competitors would allow more semi-automatic firearms to remain in circulation than we consider desirable for public safety.

Buy-back scheme

The Government has announced that it will set up a buy-back scheme to encourage people to give up their firearms. The buy-back scheme is not part of this bill.

The New Zealand Police and the Treasury are working on the details of the buy-back. The Government has said that the underlying principle of the buy-back will be that fair and reasonable compensation will be paid to firearms owners. It has also signalled that the buyback will take into account the age and type of the firearm, and its market value.

The New Zealand National Party and ACT New Zealand registered some concerns.

Full report here.

17 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  9th April 2019

    Having a little trouble getting my head around the ”Proof of unlawful possession” clause.

    ”Competitive shooting sports
    We do not recommend an exemption for sporting competitors or competitions.”

    If the person I heard interviewed regarding competitive shooting sports is correct then the possibility exists that their sport may be hampered by this bill. To be fair that was one person. He was emotional . He may be wrong.

    • Duker

       /  9th April 2019

      Isnt the ‘proof of unlawful possession ‘ common for many other items. eg drugs if its in a car and you are the driver is classed as in your possession, and the in and around houses, the owner or tenant is the person responsible. So that if you dont live at a place but are ‘staying’ then only items in your room are in ‘your possession’. I think thats they way it works, but its unlikely if you ‘are a little old lady’ whos recently moved to a place and for some reason banned firearms are hidden some where under the house and found by police they arent going to take it any further other than confiscation

      • Gezza

         /  9th April 2019

        *Some people* might want to consider buying a suitable dress & a grey wig if they plan to hang on to their prohibited firearms. Just in case.

        • Corky

           /  9th April 2019

          The people who wanted to hang on to their guns were moving them through
          paperwork mazes less than two hours after the attack. People who were clueless were rushing to Gun World to buy a soon to be confiscated weapon. That was another knee jerk reaction of people with no foresight.

          • Gezza

             /  9th April 2019

            Or their foresight was seriously misaligned. May have shot themselves in the foot, so to speak.

            • Corky

               /  9th April 2019

              How is that?

            • Duker

               /  9th April 2019

              What paperwork maze ?
              Owners are registered not guns. A prohibited gun is illegal,who-ever has the paperwork doesnt help at all

            • Corky

               /  9th April 2019

              I don’t own a semi. I wouldn’t have a clue.

            • Patzcuaro

               /  9th April 2019

              @Corky are you admitting you are clueless?

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  9th April 2019

          Gezza, they’d also need to practice talking like an old lady; like the ones in Monty Python.

    • Corky

       /  9th April 2019

      I don’t know. That’s what I believe that clause means. However, the last two paragraphs are what I’m having trouble with because it really doesn’t change much unless I’m missing something.

      • Duker

         /  9th April 2019

        So you are smarter than the police and politicians who have come up with these laws ?
        I dont think so

        • Cork

           /  9th April 2019

          What’s your problem? I said I don’t know..and I tried to explained why. Maybe if someone took me aside and explained how the relevant section and clauses all come together I might be able to explain myself better. We cant all be Einsteins like you.

          Hello..is anyone home?

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  9th April 2019

            You told us that you had two guns, and when someone asked what one of then was, your answer was that it was ‘a big one’.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  9th April 2019

      If someone’s hobby is spoiled by this, that’s their hard luck. The safety of the rest of us is more important.

      I’d guess that proof of unlawful possession = no gun license and no proof of where the gun came from, or evidence that it was stolen.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  9th April 2019

    I see little point in gun dealers being able to import them if they can’t sell them.

  1. Arms Amendment Act report presented to Parliament — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition