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'More evidence needed' to justify proposed Firearms Prohibition Orders regime

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa appeared before Parliament’s Justice select committee today on the Arms (Firearms Prohibition Orders) Amendment Bill (No 2), a member's bill in the name of Simeon Brown. The bill proposes to allow the Commissioner of Police to make Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs) against gang members who have committed certain offences, and to prevent gang members from holding firearms licences.

The Law Society said that the policy aim of the member’s bill put forward by Simeon Brown - reducing firearms-related offending - is commendable. It also noted that the Attorney-General has concluded the Bill is inconsistent with the rights to freedom of association and the presumption of innocence, as guaranteed in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The Law Society endorses the Attorney-General’s view and is concerned at how workable the Bill would be in practice.

"To meet the requirements of the Bill of Rights Act, the Bill’s proposed limits on these rights would need to be supported by evidence that gang membership in and of itself increases the risk of firearms-related harm. The data would need to show that increased risk cannot be adequately met by current legislative controls or other less rights-restricting measures. For example, the existing ‘fit and proper person’ requirement for holding a firearms licence under the Arms Act, and that it is already an offence to possess a firearm without a licence." Law Society spokesperson Esther Watt told the committee.

The Law Society noted the Attorney-General’s view that ‘while there is evidence indicating that unlawful firearms possession is an integral aspect of gang culture in New Zealand, it is unclear that the scale of the issue is such that it would warrant the severity of the FPO regime as proposed by the Bill’.

The Law Society also notes that Governmental work relating to reforms of firearm licensing and administration is still ongoing, and the results of the New Zealand Police’s consultation on a proposed FPO regime are yet to be published.

"In light of the Attorney-General’s view that the Bill is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and the ongoing work in this area still to be completed, the Law Society recommends that the Bill not proceed," Ms Watt said.

However, if the Bill does proceed, a number of provisions require further consideration, and the Law Society made several recommendations to improve the operation of the Bill.

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