MEDIA RELEASE: Arms Bill endangers public

The Arms Bill reported back to Parliament from Select Committee amounts to legislative endangerment of the public, according to Nicole McKee, spokesperson for the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO).




The Arms Bill reported back to Parliament from Select Committee amounts to legislative endangerment of the public, according to Nicole McKee, spokesperson for the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO).

McKee said today that the Bill maintained the “absurdity and inconsistency” of key components – firearm register, onerous rifle club rules and special penalties - that would result in the public being less safe than they were before the 2019 shootings at the Christchurch mosque.

She said the public is in greater danger because; the location of legal firearms is more likely to be exposed, clubs won’t have resources to identify unusual behaviour, and more people will choose illegal rather than legal ownership.

“This Bill means that every member of the public is more likely to encounter illegal firearm use.

“Worse, the overblown safety assurances made for the Bill make the public more vulnerable through a false sense of security.”

McKee said the weakest link was still the planned register of all firearms.

“A register will cost tens of millions to set up and run, yet will almost certainly be hacked or mistakenly accessed, and would not contain the estimated tens of thousands of ‘crime guns’.

“The new rule allowing 30 days before you have to register a change of location destroys the only reason for this Bill – that Police know if firearms are at locations they visit in their line of work. The 30-day rule makes that assurance worthless – and dangerous.” 

She said the rules for those running rifle clubs would send firearm owners underground and into public space for target practice.

She also condemned the maintenance of penalties for breaching firearm licence rules that were disproportionately higher than other firearm offences.  

McKee said the Bill had nothing to do with anything related to the Mosque shootings in March last year.

“Not a single one of these changes would alter what caused that shooting. The Government cannot deny that, because it has not bothered to wait for the Royal Commission report.

“The Bill has everything to do with the Government wanting to look dynamic by lashing out at licenced firearm owners.

“But the general public already backed a ban on semi-automatics firearms. They did not back this unrelated piece of legislation.  In fact, 90% of the submissions on this Bill opposed it in whole or part.”



Faults in the major Bill provisions



Firearms register

The rationale for the introduction of a register was so Police could know the number and types of firearms at properties they visit in their enforcement duties.

The Government will introduce a firearm register, but – sensibly - exempt temporary transfers less than 30 days so licenced firearms owners do not have to update the register every time they go hunting or attend competitions.

This change means that the operational need for a register is redundant.

Clubs and ranges

Responsibilities heaped on volunteer officials and members of clubs and ranges remain to discourage them from participation.

They are still subject to the Police Commissioner’s discretionary regulation, though Police will have to provide 7 days’ notice for any inspections.

Firearms offences

Penalties and offences for licenced firearms owners will be disproportionately higher than for other offences.  For example, the maximum fine for failing to update the registry is $10,000, compared to the maximum fine for providing a false statement to Police which is $2000.

Possession of ammunition

Possession is still very broadly defined and will include instances where an individual is a driver of a vehicle or the only family member at home. This means that every time a licenced firearms owner leaves his home, where ammunition is stored, the remaining person in the home is committing an offence if they do not also hold a firearms licence.

Among other reasons why people could hold ammunition and not firearms, it means people cannot possess historic or sentimental ammunition heirlooms without becoming a licenced firearms owner – even if they have no intention of ever owning a firearm.  

Potential loss of compensation

There has been a change in the definition of a part which may mean that some parts may now be illegal and others that were illegal may now be legal. Licenced firearms owners may again find themselves holding illegal items and without compensation for disposing of them. And others who handed in parts during the buyback may not have had to.

Pest control

Pest control licenses remain just as onerous to obtain, discouraging people becoming pest controllers. Endorsements will be required every 2.5 years, creating further discouraging red-tape.

Arms Act administration

The administration of the Arms Act will remain with Police, despite evidence showing that they are not operationally capable of administering it.