1 Mar 2024

Firearms Prohibition Orders changes just 'window dressing' - Labour

1:58 pm on 1 March 2024
Labour MP Ginny Andersen

Labour's Police spokesperson Ginny Andersen Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Changes to Firearms Prohibition Orders will not make any real difference to safety, Labour's Police spokesperson Ginny Andersen says.

The government on Friday morning announced it was introducing legislation - promised in its 100-day plan - to expand the use of Firearms Prohibition Orders.

The orders - introduced by the previous Labour government in November 2022 - allow a court to ban certain people from using, accessing, or being around firearms - and make breaching those rules a criminal offence.

They currently can be applied to people convicted of offences which would disqualify them from holding a firearms licence, other serious violent offences, the Crimes Act offence of participating in an organised criminal group, or terrorism-related offences.

The newly proposed changes would allow a court to issue them for offences under the Crimes Act, the Misuse of Drugs Act, or the Psychoactive Substances Act, and allow police to search those people, their vehicles, and their homes at any time.

It would also change the regime to allow people who are subject to the orders to apply to the court for it to be changed or removed after five years - half the current expiry date of 10 years.

Andersen said the changes would not make any real difference to the safety of New Zealanders, as the FPOs were already working well, and police had strong powers under the Search and Surveillance Act, and the Criminal Activity Intervention legislation.

"That bill gives police the ability to have a 14-day period where they can have warrantless searches in times of gang tensions - gangs have been targeted using that legislation and police say it works incredibly well," she told RNZ.

She said she had looked at the proposal and could not see a big difference or change in the law.

"It might capture a few more people but I don't see how it really brings about increased public safety, particularly given this government is looking at paring back the firearms registry," she said. "Having a complete intelligence map of where all the guns are in New Zealand is the safest way to control firearms and I know that ACT wants to take that away.

"It appears they're adding some drug offences to the number that qualify for it, but they're also weakening those powers by saying that if someone hasn't committed any offences they could be taken off that firearm prohibition list."

She said she agreed people who had shown they could be good citizens should be able to seek to have an FPO removed, but it did not sit well with what ACT and National were proposing.

"They're saying they're getting tough in this area and it seems to me these changes weaken what's already there. It seems to be just to try and create some window dressing to distract from the fact that military style semi-automatic weapons are back under this government."

While the government has confirmed its intention to carry out a full review of the Arms Act, no decisions on the possibility of a return of banned semi-automatics have been announced yet.

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