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Tighter firearms law to further improve safety

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

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.

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