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Firearms in New Zealand
Image: Getty Images/H. Hopkins

New Zealand plans to tighten gun laws

July 22, 2019

New Zealand plans to create a gun register and tighten gun licensing, among other measures. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the intent of the reform was to "stop weapons falling into the wrong hands."


New Zealand's government said on Monday that it wanted to implement sweeping gun law reform, in the second measure to tighten firearm rules following a mass shooting at two mosques in Christchurch in March.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the law would aim to create a national gun and license holder register, ban visitors from buying guns and tighten rules on obtaining and maintaining a firearms license.

Other planks of the reform would establish new licensing for around 260 shooting clubs and ranges, expand police powers to confiscate weapons if an individual shows warning signs, and require a license to purchase ammunition.

Under the law, firearms licenses would have to be renewed every five years instead of 10.

"The terror attack on March 15 highlighted the flaws in our licensing system," Ardern said. "The changes announced today have been decades in the making. It is now up to this parliament to deliver in the interests of public and personal safety."

The reform would also establish that owning a firearm is a privilege that requires safety, not a right.

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Police have long advocated for a national gun register and stricter gun laws.

"Under the current law, we do not know exactly how many guns are in circulation, who owns them, who is selling them, who is buying them, or how securely they are stored against the risk of theft or misuse," Police Minister Stuart Nash said. "Police have very few options for intervening when they see concerning behavior. Revoking a firearms license can only happen for the most serious cases and can take weeks, during which time the guns can be given away or disappear without trace."

Firearms buy-back

In April, legislators overwhelmingly backed a law to ban assault rifles and military style semi-automatics after authorities charged Australian Brenton Tarrant of killing 51 people and injuring dozens more at two mosques in Christchurch. Tarrant has pleaded not guilty.

A firearm buy-back scheme was also implemented. Gun owners have until December 20 to hand in an estimated 13,000 assault rifles and military style semi-automatics.

Around 250,000 New Zealanders out of a population of almost 4.8 million hold a firearms license. It is estimated there are around 1.5 million firearms in a country with many farms, 98% of which are shotguns and rifles.

Details of the new law are still being worked out and will need to be passed by parliament.

cw/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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