Government announces tighter rules for gun access

Police Minister Paula Bennett did not want to unfairly punish responsible gun users, and said her approach was about ...
JOE GREEN/FAIRFAX NZ

Police Minister Paula Bennett did not want to unfairly punish responsible gun users, and said her approach was about finding the right "balance".

Gang members and their prospects will not be legally allowed to own guns, as the Government moves to tighten rules around firearms access. 

Police Minister Paula Bennett has also announced plans to create firearm "prohibition orders" and clarify that website sales of guns are included in legislation that governs "mail-order" gun purchases.

But the Government is stopping short of implementing a number of recommendations from a select committee inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms, including ones that sought to regulate the possession of ammunition. 

The Government is moving to ensure no gang members or their prospects are granted gun licenses.
Louis Klaassen

The Government is moving to ensure no gang members or their prospects are granted gun licenses.

Bennett has also ruled out making police confirm that secure gun storage was available before granting a gun licence.

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They will not be given the power to enter premises to the security of highest calibre weapons, and licensees who fail to comply with storage regulations won't face mandatory revocation of their gun licence.

"The committee made 20 recommendations. After careful consideration I've accepted seven, rejected 12, and recommended one proceed with changes," Bennett said.

"We needed to strike the right balance between public safety and the rights of legal firearms owners. Although the report was well intended, I believe many of the recommendations would not decrease the flow of firearms to criminals and gangs but would unduly impact on legally licensed firearms users."

Loopholes in the law around the purchase of guns from online stores on sites like Trade Me, were brought to light in 2015 by reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan.

Story

Heather du Plessis-Allan talking about the police decision not to charge her

The co-host of Story found herself under police investigation, following a report in which she purchased a gun without a licence in an episode of the show, ostensibly to expose loopholes in how guns can be bought online.

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Police moved to shut down the loophole following the report - and eventually let du Plessis-Allan off the hook by deciding to not lay charges. 

The Select Committee's terms of reference were to focus on how widespread firearms possession was among criminals, including gangs. It was also directed to look into how people who did not hold a firearms licence came into possession of firearms and how to restrict the flow of firearms to criminals, gangs and people who did not hold a licence.

The inquiry was requested by Bennett's predecessor in the portfolio, Judith Collins. 

In addition to the recommendations from the committee, Bennett said she also appointed independent firearms experts to advise her, alongside advice from police, the public and the Law and Order Select Committee. 

"After careful consideration I have added two more recommendations to my response. One proposes the introduction of the power to suspend licences pending decision on revocation.

"This will give Police an alternative to cancelling a licence, for example in situations where someone has been charged with family violence, or where there are security issues that need to be resolved," she said.

"I'm also proposing a Ministerial direction to the Police to require consultation with the firearms community when considering changes to the Arms Act and the interpretation of it.

"Nobody wants firearms getting into the hands of violent gang members but we also don't want over-the-top rules and restrictions to be placed on hunters and shooters who manage their firearms responsibly."

Work would now begin to develop policy around the recommendations the Government was progressing. That would involve consultation, costing and investigating any regulatory impacts before a case was put before Cabinet for approval, later this year. 

 - Stuff

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