National News

New Zealand to introduce gun register


"Now we are moving to stop other firearms falling into the wrong hands," Jacinda Ardern (New Zealand's Prime Minister)

New Zealand's gun owners will have to register their weapons as part of the country's far-reaching overhaul to its licensing regime following the deadly attack on two mosques in Christchurch in March.

"In April we acted to take the most dangerous weapons out of circulation by prohibiting assault rifles and military style semi-automatics," Jacinda Ardern said in a statement on Monday.

"Now we are moving to stop other firearms falling into the wrong hands," she continued, announcing the second tranche of proposed changes to the country's 1983 firearms laws.

The proposed reform sees the establishment of a firearms register that links gun serial numbers to licence holders over the next five years.

It also includes halving the ten-year licence expiry to five years, barring visitors to New Zealand from purchasing firearms, registering the country's estimated 260 gun clubs and giving police more powers to intervene over concerns about a licence holder's behaviour.

"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.

While the now outlawed military-style semi-automatic rifles handguns and restricted weapons like fully automatic firearms previously had to be registered, shotguns and rifles, which make up 96 per cent of the country's weapons, did not.

"Our gun laws date from 1983 and are dangerously out of date," Ms Ardern said. Since then the firearms manufacturing industry and the ability to buy and sell online has markedly changed.

"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," Ardern continued.

About 250,000 New Zealanders, out of a population of almost 4.8 million, hold a firearms licence. It is estimated there are around 1.5 million firearms in the country, including 13,500 registered military-style semi-automatic rifles

New Zealand's Police Association has repeatedly called for a compulsory New Zealand gun register after a survey revealed that many police officers had been threatened with a firearm. New Zealand police are generally not armed.

Meanwhile police received more than 2,000 of the now illegal semi-automatic firearms at government gun buyback events held over the weekend.

Owners have until December 20 to hand in illegal weapons under an amnesty agreement, after New Zealand banned most semi-automatic firearms, some pump action shotguns and certain large capacity magazines in April.

The ban came less than a month after 51 people were killed and dozens injured when a suspected white supremacist opened fire at the Christchurch mosques.

© DPA 2019