Firearms Rights and Responsibilities
Unlike the USA where the right to own and possess firearms is enshrined in the Constitution under the Second Amendment there is no such legal protection in New Zealand.
The 1688 English Bill of Rights States “That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law”. In New Zealand the Law, based on the English legal system, that allows the possession of firearms is the Arms Act 1983, subsequent amendments and associated Regulations, whereby persons judged to be “fit and proper” may be in possession of a firearm if they have obtained the appropriate Firearms Licence or are under the direct supervision of a licence holder. You can read the Arms Act here.
A Firearms Licence is issued by the NZ Police
As a result of the Arms Legislation Act 2020, passed in June 2020, there have been significant changes to the law relating to firearms in New Zealand. These changes are far-reaching and will be implemented in stages over the next three years as Police develop policies for the administration. READ MORE HERE. This is a significant reason why you should join SSANZ.
As a firearm owner you have responsibilities to keep others and yourself safe from injury, this is achieved by always observing the 7 Basic Rules of Firearm Safety.
- Treat every firearm as loaded – always check it yourself.
- Always point a firearm in a safe direction.
- Load a firearm only when ready to shoot – unload when shooting is finished.
- Identify your target beyond all doubt.
- Check your firing zone – what else could you hit.
- Store firearms and ammunition securely.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs – these will impair your judgement.
These rules have been developed over many years to suit the particular shooting environment found in New Zealand and when unintentional shootings occur it is generally found that one or more of these rules has been ignored.
Things you should know
What to do during a visit from the Police
If the Police come and knock on your door:
•The rules for all contact –
- Be polite but firm.
- Ask to see identification.
- Record the name of the officer and their station
- Ask why they are there
- Ask them to refer to the exact statutory authority they are using to visit your home
or to ask you any questions
- Record the conversation (for your own notes and records) by every means available (e.g.audio &/or video).
•What is the situation –
- If you are a firearms licence holder – standard (see Section 1)
- If you are a firearms licence holder with an endorsed licence (for pistol, restricted weapon, prohibited firearm or prohibited magazine) (see Section 2)
- The police search your home (see Section 3)
- If the police wish to question you (see Section 4).
Section 1 – If you are a standard firearms license holder
- The Police cannot enter your home uninvited to inspect your firearms or gun safe unless they have reasonable belief an offence has been committed. This requires a degree of evidence to support it
- At no time can the police photograph your firearms
- At no time can they record the serial numbers of your standard firearms
- There is no requirement for the police to examine your security at any time; it is up to you to comply with the requirements
- You need to produce your firearms licence on demand, but you have 7 days to do this if it cannot be located immediately (s 26 2 of the Arms Act 1983)
Section 2 - If you are an endorsed firearms license holder
- The police can knock on your door at a reasonable time and ask to see individual firearms that you hold as an endorsed person only (ie. not your standard firearms)
- The police can enter at all reasonable times to inspect your safe and security. 5 am in the morning is not a reasonable time. For example, if you have a sick child or guests asleep in the room where the firearms are stored it is therefore not a reasonable time for you as the homeowner. Politely ask them to come back later or set a time with them for another day.
- However, if it is a reasonable time you must allow them to inspect your endorsed firearms (pistols, restricted weapons, prohibited firearms or prohibited magazines) and your safe(s) and security.
- It is an offence to refuse to produce a pistol, prohibited firearm or restricted weapon to the police on demand, or to refuse their request to inspect it and the security for it (s 55b), but this demand to inspect or produce is tempered by s 31A (1) (b), and must be a reasonable time to the home owner, and only if you are actually in possession of the items they are requesting at the time of their demand.
- You must produce your firearms license on demand by the police. You have 7 days to comply with this demand if it cannot be immediately located.
- Remember there is no such thing as a register of firearms in NZ. The police record of endorsed firearms is their own creation and is of little concern to you. The permission for you to possess a firearm comes from your endorsement and permit to (procure)
possess that individual firearm.
Section 3 – The Police enter your home via a search warrant, or under the Search and Surveillance Act warrantless search, or Arms Act provisions for search
- Ask– “Under which enactment are you searching my home?”
- Ask for a copy of any search warrant.
- Do not answer any questions and say “no comment thank you”, “ I do not wish to make any statement or answer any of your questions”. You have a right to silence. If you are detained lawfully by the police you must give your name, address and date of birth, but nothing else. There is no such thing as “off the record”. Ask to call your lawyer without delay.
- Record the name of the OC (officer in charge) and record QID numbers (collar tags) of all police staff attending the search.
Section 4 - The Police ask you to attend the police station and/or come to your home and wish you to answer questions, eg. your name is on a “list” of people to be spoken to etc
- Get the name and QID number (collar tag) of the officer. Ask for identification.
- Ask – “Under which statutory authority are you requiring me to answer these questions?” Politely and calmly refuse to answer any questions and … Ask them to leave your property immediately
- Call a lawyer who can advise or assist you with Official Information Act requests concerning the reasons for their visit and IPCA complaints if appropriate.
- Record the conversations (for your own notes and records).
A fit and proper person should be one who co-operates with the police within the requirements of the law, but not beyond it.
If you should become involved in a domestic dispute or become separated from your partner then there is the possibility that a Protection Order may be issued against you.
When a temporary Protection Order is made you must hand in any firearms within 24 hours, or earlier if required by the Police. Your firearms licence will also be suspended. If you have access to firearms or weapons the Police, the Court or the applicant’s lawyer must be told. Once the Order is made final, after 3 months, your firearms licence will be revoked unless you have satisfied the Court that the applicant will be safe.
You may challenge a Protection Order within the 3 month period before it becomes final.
Revocation of Firearm Licence
If Police consider for any reason that you are not a “fit and proper person” or a person who is not a “fit and proper person” may have ready access to your firearms then they may revoke your Firearms licence. Reasons for not being a fit and proper person may include such things as a criminal conviction, drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, mental illness.
You must then surrender all your firearms and your licence. Once your firearm licence is revoked you may not be in possession of any type of firearm or air gun, even under supervision of a licence holder. If your licence is revoked you may make arrangements to sell your firearms to an approved person within 3 months. You have the right to apply to a District Court Judge to appeal the decision to revoke.
If you suspect that you may be vulnerable to a situation that may involve a Protection Order or a Revocation make arrangements to store your firearms at an alternative safe location, with a friend for example who is suitably licensed. Also talk to your local Arms Officer about these arrangements.