The Government’s first round of gun law reforms come into force from Tuesday, but one lobby group for licensed firearms users say it doesn’t target the right people.
Among the rules coming into force from February 1 include better oversight of dealer activities, stronger rules for firearm storage during transport, and tightening licence vetting requirements
The reforms were part of the Arms Amendment Regulations Act passed last year. The laws were made in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the 2019 Christchurch mosque terrorist attack, which claimed 51 lives and injured dozens more.
Police Minister Poto Williams said it reflected the fact that owning a gun was a privilege, not a right.
”This is a key change to the firearms vetting process, which will help ensure anyone with red flags in other jurisdictions will be identified. Police can then consider whether these individuals are fit and proper to hold a firearms licence in New Zealand,” she said.
“Gangs and other violent criminals cannot continue to threaten, intimidate, and exploit our communities and these additional regulations provide the police further tools to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, and to keep our communities safe.”
But Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO) spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack told Breakfast the changes would end up making it harder for law-abiding gun owners to enjoy their sports, rather than target criminals.
“These don’t impact or look to reduce actual firearms crime,” he said.
Devereux-Mack said what was needed, instead, was to shift the responsibility of administering gun licences from the police to a dedicated agency.
That was because it was a police mistake that led to the Christchurch terrorist being wrongly granted a firearms license, he said.
“Following [the Christchurch terror attack], New Zealand looked at anything to make us feel safer and prevent this from happening in the future. COLFO argued at the time that the best thing we could do was wait for the royal commission report to come out.”
While action was needed after the attack, “we needed to take a step back, breathe, and put in place laws based on evidence rather than the feeling of the day”, he said.
Devereux-Mack said the dedicated agency would also allow police to focus on targeting criminals and illegal firearms users, such as in initiatives like Operation Tauwhiro.
He also wanted the Government to continue working with COLFO to come up with solutions.
The Government planned to introduce a further firearms reform Bill in Parliament this year, including a proposal to set up a gun register by June 2023.
Police data revealed that while the number of firearms offences has risen and fallen over the past 15 years, 2021 was the worst over that period with 1308 firearms offences recorded.