Tighter firearms law to further improve safety

Published: Mon 11 Nov 2019 03:52 PM
Hon Stuart Nash
Minister of Police
11 November 2019
Tougher gun laws designed to improve public safety through firearms prohibition orders are proposed in a new document released for public input.
Police Minister Stuart Nash says firearms prohibition orders (FPOs) would give new powers to Police to ensure high-risk individuals come nowhere near firearms.
“We have already prohibited the most dangerous firearms with our ban on assault rifles and military style semi-automatics,” says Mr Nash. “Our second set of changes will stop firearms falling into the wrong hands by creating a firearms register and a tighter system for firearms licences.
“The latest proposal for FPOs goes even further. It is aimed at high-risk people outside the licensing system, in particular those with a history of violent offending, gun crimes or family harm.
“FPOs would prevent people from being around others who have firearms, using them under supervision, or being at a location that enables access to guns. FPOs set conditions which people must follow, allow Police to monitor the conditions, and create penalties for breaches.
“In practice this may mean a person subject to a FPO could not live in or visit a property where firearms are held, even if the firearm owner is licensed. They could not be in a vehicle which is carrying a firearm. They could not go hunting even under supervision. They could still associate with lawful gun owners, but not if a firearm is present.
“FPOs would give Police greater powers to investigate people whose behaviour cannot be regulated by a firearms licensing system. Police could search properties and confiscate illegal firearms, parts and ammunition, and could monitor conditions placed on people with a history of offending.
“FPOs could offer Police significant potential to further disrupt criminal organisations. Already this year, Police have seized almost 1600 firearms from gangs and other offenders since March. They have been seized during property searches, vehicle stops, and family harm callouts.
“The number of firearms stolen in burglaries has increased significantly in the past 10 years. In 2010, 440 firearms were reported stolen, compared to 771 during 2018. In the 15 months till the end of September 2019, almost 1050 firearms were reported stolen. Every month, Police turn up to 200 events where firearms are involved.
“The consultation document is deliberately broad so the public can help shape the rules.
“We want feedback on the type of previous convictions which would make a person eligible for a FPO. We want feedback on whether Police or Judges should make decisions about FPOs, and the extent of Police enforcement powers such as searching people and property without a warrant.
“The firearms buyback and amnesty has so far removed more than 36,000 prohibited firearms and 132,000 prohibited parts from circulation. We have paid more than $70 million to more than 21,000 law-abiding firearms owners.
“FPOs are aimed at those who have already shown a disregard for the law through prior offending, which may include offending with firearms. They could be a gang member, or part of an extremist ideological group, or a person with a history of family harm.
“This sits within a package of work to keep New Zealanders safe, including the record number of police we have put on the frontline, and crime prevention measures in our communities such as fog cannons in dairies and other small retail businesses.
“FPOs were first considered by the previous government in 2014 but the idea failed to make progress. A Select Committee also recommended change in early 2017. Other proposals in a Members Bill were rejected in 2018 because they were too narrow.
“We have made a lot of changes to our firearms laws this year, all with the same intent – to protect our communities from the harm that firearms can inflict in the wrong hands,” says Mr Nash.
Note to editors:
The consultation document and template for public submissions can be found on the Police website Submissions are open until 5pm Monday 13 January 2020 and can be sent to
Questions and Answers
1. What is a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO)?
• A Firearms Prohibition Order is a legally enforceable document which sets out a range of conditions a named person must comply with.
• FPOs could prohibit a person from possessing, using, accessing, or being around firearms, parts or ammunition.
• The FPO could be issued by either a Judge or the Police. There would be a right of appeal by the person subject to the FPO.
• Police would enforce the FPO and a breach of conditions would be a criminal offence.
2. When could a FPO be issued and what conditions would that person have to follow?
Public feedback is sought on the design of a FPO regime in New Zealand. This includes questions such as:
• What are the qualifying criteria for someone to be subject to the FPO; what conditions a person must comply with under the FPO; who would have the authority to issue a FPO; what would be the extent of Police enforcement powers; the duration of the FPO; and the penalties for breaching a FPO.
• Whether a FPO should apply to a person with serious convictions for violence, firearms offending, family harm, and gang-related activity.
• Whether a FPO could be issued for up to a certain time period, for a fixed time period, or for life.
• What search powers Police should have in order to enforce a FPO, for example by carrying out a warrantless search, and the extent of penalties, for example up to five years jail.
3. What would be the practical effect on a person subject to the FPO?
• A person subject to the FPO would not be able to go anywhere near firearms, parts, or ammunition.
• In effect, this means they could not live in or visit a property where firearms were present.
• They may not be able to travel in a vehicle where firearms were present.
• They could not use a firearm even under supervision of a licensed firearms owner, such as on a hunting trip, or at a shooting range, or in a gun dealers’ premises.
• Police would monitor compliance with the FPO, such as searching a premises or vehicle or person without a warrant.
4. Do FPOs limit a person’s human rights?
• The very nature of FPOs constrain individual rights. Depending on the final design of a FPO regime, these may include provisions under the Bill of Rights Act such as freedom of association, freedom of movement, the right to be secure against unreasonable search, and the right to be presumed innocent.
• Police note that it is likely that Māori men may be over-represented in the number of people subject to FPOs because Māori men are over-represented in statistics for the type of offending which could make a person subject to a FPO.
• Police also note that Māori women are more likely to be victims of violence than the national average, particularly for family violence, and may therefore benefit from a FPO regime.
5. Is this regime targeting law abiding and legitimate firearms owners?
• No, it targets people with a history of serious offending who have links to others with firearms.
• FPOs are aimed at those who have shown they have a lower regard for the law, as demonstrated by their prior offending, which may include offending with firearms.
• The aim of a FPO is to ensure that people who pose a risk of offending cannot be anywhere near firearms and that Police have the power to enforce this restriction.
6. If a person is subject to an FPO are they prevented from seeing friends or family members who have firearms licences and who own firearms?
• A person subject to a FPO could still associate with friends and family who lawfully own firearms, subject to certain conditions.
• They could not be with them at a location where there is a firearm (such as their home or workplace or vehicle) or be in their company while they have firearms on them.
• The extent of conditions imposed by a FPO is one of the issues for feedback in the consultation document.
7. Why are you consulting the public on further firearms law changes when an Arms Amendment Bill is already before Parliament?
• The design of a potential FPO regime targets those outside the firearms licensing system, which is the focus of the current Bill.
• FPOs also raise issues of human rights and may impact the wider justice system, which means a broad range of views is sought.
• It is also important to test public sentiment about where to draw a line between limiting existing rights and protecting public safety.
• Public feedback offers an important way to fine tune proposals before the government considers legislative change. Any FPO regime would need to be carefully balanced to mitigate inequalities in the criminal justice system.
8. How many FPOs are likely to be issued each year?
• It is difficult to estimate the extent of FPOs before the design of the regime is finalised.
• However Police consider it possible that fewer than 20 FPOs could be issued in the first year of operation of such a regime in New Zealand. It is hard to be certain without knowing the final shape of any law.

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