12 Oct 2018

In their own words: New Zealand's gun policy

3:01 pm on 12 October 2018

As the government reviews penalties in the Arms Act, National is holding forums with gun owners around the country.

Police Minister Stuart Nash and National Party police spokesperson Chris Bishop

Photo: RNZ

National has held the first of what it hopes will be about 30 meetings with some of the country's 250,000 licensed firearms owners to hear their views on the Arms Act.

"It's a discussion with gun owners but it's not about necessarily making life easier for them," National's police spokesperson Chris Bishop said.

Mr Bishop and Police Minister Stuart Nash debated the issue on Morning Report:

Penalties and enforcement

Chris Bishop:

"The balance with firearms policy is always about respecting the rights of legitimate licensed firearm owners but also cracking down on criminals who use weapons illegally.

"[Firearms owners at the first forum] want tougher penalties for those who abuse the laws and breach the laws, people who are in breach of their licence and also tougher laws for people who use illegal firearms in criminal activity like robberies and aggravated assault."

Stuart Nash:

"A review of penalties in the Arms Act is under way.

"What a lot of firearms owners said to me is that the Arms Act as it stands at the moment apart from penalties - and this where I agree with Mr Bishop on that - is pretty much fit for purpose but it just isn't enforced in a way that's consistent around the country.

"One of the first things I did was set up a committee on this ... and said okay how do we drive consistency across the country in terms of the operation of the Arms Act.

"Police have held a series of meetings around the country. They've come out with a document at the moment that will address a lot of the concerns that arms owners have.

"Let me give you one example. In Northland one of the firearms officers said all you need to do to secure your rifle is have a chain around your hot water cylinder. In another region of the country one officer said he will not issue a licence unless you've got a safe which is suitable for serious MSSA [military style semi-automatic] rifles. It just wasn't consistent and we need to get that consistency so firearms owners know what they've got to do in order to comply with the law."

National firearms register

Chris Bishop:

"We had a bit of discussion around this idea that has been pushed by some out there about a national firearms register - whether or not you should have to register not only yourselves as a firearm owner but also the guns that you own. That's been pushed by groups like the Police Association.

"Traditionally the view in New Zealand is that we licence the owner and we don't licence the guns because there'd be an enormous cost and logistics involved in registering guns and of course the argument is made that it makes it easier to track guns and makes it easier to track down criminality, but of course it's not like Black Power are going go out there and register guns that they own.

"We don't have a particular fixed view - that's why we're doing the policy forums

Stuart Nash:

"Pistols and military style semi-automatics actually have to be registered anyway so the dangerous or the expensive firearms or those held by collectors are on a register. "

Internet sales of firearms

Chris Bishop:

"You can import all sorts of things into New Zealand right now and I think we're going have a discussion around that as a country over the next few years."

Stuart Nash:

"Only if you are buying from a licensed arms dealer and you can prove that you have an E-Cat licence, ie the appropriate licence, and the dealer can prove they are a licensed dealer.

"You shouldn't be able to go on Trade Me and buy a military style semi-automatic without any sort of confirmation that the person you're purchasing off is able to sell it and the person that's buying has the appropriate licence."