Government consulting on whether to introduce Firearms Prohibition Orders

Mon 25 Nov 2019

The Government is consulting on whether Firearms Prohibition Orders should be introduced into New Zealand, and if so, what they should look like.

Person writing on paper

The Government is consulting on whether Firearms Prohibition Orders should be introduced into New Zealand, and if so, what they should look like.

The deadline to make a submission is 13 January 2020.

Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs) could prohibit people considered "high risk" from using, accessing, or being around firearms. Breaching the conditions of a Firearms Prohibition Order would be a criminal offence. If established, depending on how broad a scheme was selected, people could be deemed high risk because they have been convicted of serious violence offences, firearms offences, and/or breaches of Protection Orders.

The public consultation document produced by New Zealand Police states:

"While it is unlikely that a person with such a history would be regarded as a ‘fit and proper’ person under either the current  Arms Act 1983 or the changes proposed under the Arms Legislation Bill, they do not rule out entirely the possibility that such a person would be able to access firearms. For instance, the person would still be able to access and use firearms under the immediate supervision of a Firearms Licence holder.

Moreover, the ‘fit and proper’ person test does not prevent a high-risk offender from associating with people who are in possession of firearms, or residing at or visiting a location where firearms are held.

A Firearms Prohibition Order, however, would prevent that person from being around firearms, and, depending on the conditions imposed, potentially prevent the person from being around or visiting places where firearms are located."

A Firearms Prohibition Order regime would be in addition to other gun reform introduced by the Government following the Christchurch terror attack:

Police Minister Stuart Nash said:

“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."

In discussing how broad a group of people to apply a Firearms Prohibition Orders to, and whether a conviction for breaching a Protection Order would be grounds for making a Firearms Prohibition Order, the consultation document states:

"In five of the 23 homicides in 2017 and 2018 where a firearm was used, the offender was the subject of a Protection Order. Given this, using a lower benchmark of a breach of a Protection Order, whether firearms were used in the breach or not,  would capture people who have demonstrated a propensity to flout such orders. It may also capture those who go on to commit serious violence offences, including murder, with a firearm. However, it may also capture a large number of other people who  would not go on to commit serious violence or  firearms offences.

While including breaches of Protection Orders aligns with the safety objectives of the Firearms Prohibition Order regime, it may also obscure the connection between firearms, serious violence offending, and Firearms Prohibition Orders. As such, it  may not be considered a proportionate response to the limitation placed on affected people’s rights and freedoms, particularly the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of movement."

For research on the links between family violence (including intimate partner violence and child abuse) and gun violence, see our previous News article Submissions open on gun reform bill.

Further information is available in a Cabinet Social Wellbeing Committee paper, Public Consultation – Firearms Prohibition Orders.

Submissions can be made by filling in an online form, or completing and submitting the submission form.

Update: The Firearms Prohibition Order Legislation Bill passed and received Royal Assent on 15 August 2022. The Firearms Prohibition Legislation Act comes into force on 16 November 2022. The Beehive media released noted "Following today’s passage of the Bill, anyone convicted and sentenced of a specified serious crime, including murder, serious assault, sexual violence, and some family violence offences, can be subject to an order and not lawfully able to use or access a firearm." Section 39A of the Firearms Prohibition Orders Legislation Act 2022 specifies when a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) can be made which includes when a person is convicted of strangulation and suffocation (under the Crimes Act 1961, section 189a) and serious violent offences such as sexual violence (under a specified violent offence as defined in section 4 of the Victims’ Orders Against Violent Offenders Act 2014 which defines a violent offence as the meaning given to serious violent offence by section 86A of the Sentencing Act 2002). For more information see the NZ Police media release Orders coming into force to prevent harm by firearms.

Update: Research published in 2021 from the US has found that 59.1% of mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 were related to domestic violence and in 68.2% of mass shootings, the perpetrator either killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of domestic violence. Read the full article The role of domestic violence in fatal mass shootings in the United States, 2014–2019 or see the media release Study: Two-Thirds of Mass Shootings Linked to Domestic Violence for more information. 

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