Submissions open on Firearms Prohibition Orders Legislation Bill


Fri 04 Mar 2022

The Justice Committee is calling for submissions on legislation intended to restrict access to firearms for serious violent offenders.

The proposed legislation would apply to people convicted of certain offences including sexual violence, but not to people who have breached protection orders or restraining orders.

The closing date to make a submission is 29 March 2022.

The Firearms Prohibition Orders Legislation Bill was introduced on 15 December 2021. It is an omnibus bill that would amend several Acts.

The purpose of the legislation is to restrict access to firearms for people whose behaviour and actions present a risk of violence. The bill would introduce a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO). An FPO could be made by a court to prohibit a person from accessing, possessing, or using any firearm or related item. It also would prohibit the person from associating with individuals or going to places that are likely to allow access to firearms.

The bill sets out that an FPO could be made against a person who has been convicted of a specified offence under the Arms Act 1983, the Crimes Act 1961, or the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002, or convicted of a serious violent offence as defined in section 86A of the Sentencing Act 2002 (serious violent offences include sexual violence, manslaughter, murder, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, kidnapping and many more).

The Explanatory note for the legislation states:

"The Bill complements recent amendments to the Arms Act 1983, which ensure that only those people considered fit and proper to possess firearms can be issued with a firearms licence.

The Bill introduces firearms prohibition orders (FPOs), which address some limitations with the Arms Act 1983 that might enable a high-risk person to legally access or use firearms or restricted weapons, associate with people in physical possession of firearms, or reside at or visit locations where firearms are held, including gun shops, arms fairs, or gun clubs."

Submissions are due by 29 March 2022. For questions, contact the Justice Committee at 04 817 9520 or ju@parliament.govt.nz.

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.

Background

NZ Police initially consulted the public in November 2019 about whether Firearms Prohibition Orders should be introduced. The initial proposal outlined different options for what types of previous convictions could qualify for a Firearms Prohibition Order. Option 3 in the initial consultation document included breaches of protection orders, among other offences. The currently proposed legislation does not include breaches of protection orders or restraining orders as possible offences for FPOs.

The Cabinet Paper lodged by Minister of Police Poto Williams, Firearms Prohibition Orders: Final Design Parameters (December 2021), states:

"I propose to narrow the conviction types that would qualify for a Firearms Prohibition Order to ensure that these orders are focused tightly on higher-risk offenders, where there is a clear link between the nature of offending and firearm-related risk However, this does involve some trade-offs, particularly in relation to family violence offending (for instance, offenders who breach protection orders)."

The Cabinet Paper further clarifies the types of convictions that would qualify for a Firearms Prohibition Order, noting:

"22. The broader the list of qualifying convictions, the wider the coverage of the regime and the greater the public safety outcomes of Firearms Prohibition Orders. At the same time, the broader the list of qualifying convictions, the less targeted the regime may be as it may capture a large group of people who do not go on to commit further acts of serious offending.

23. Given this, I consider that a more limited list of conviction categories is needed to ensure that Firearms Prohibition Orders are tightly targeted to those whose offences are at the higher end of the harm spectrum. In doing so, I consider that the regime should be focused to capture the most serious Arms Act offences and those offences generally recognised as serious violent offences.

24. This approach means that the Firearms Prohibition Order design will not cover the original proposed offence categories of criminal harassment or breaches of protection orders or restraining orders[emphasis added] 

25. In making this decision, I have given careful consideration to the impact of family violence and harassment in our community, and the harm caused by repeated breaches of protection orders. I have also considered the safeguards already built into protection orders, recognising that the court already has the ability to consider the risks associated with firearms and restricted weapons when making a protection order.

26. Many protection orders include a standard condition about weapons that prohibits the respondent from possessing or having weapons under their control; and also requires the surrender of any weapon in the respondent’s possession or under their control."

For more information see the proactively released cabinet papers and other documents related to Firearms Prohibition Orders from NZ Police.

The legislation is part of the wider government response to the terrorist attack on Christchurch masjidain.

Links between family violence and access to firearms

The Family Violence Death Review Committee (FVDRC) has found that about 10% of family violence deaths are committed with firearms (see the FVDRC submission on the Arms Legislation Bill, 2019). The FVDRC has also found that between 2009 and 2017, of 37 men who had been served with a protection order and were the predominant aggressor involving a family violence death, 57% had breached one or more protection orders (see the Sixth report | Te Pūrongo tuaono : Men who use violence | Ngā tāne ka whakamahi i te whakarekereke, FVDRC, page 48).

In the Women's Refuge submission on the Arms Amendment Bill (2019), they highlight that "...access to firearms can escalate the likelihood of fatality when family violence is perpetrated" and that "...the threat of having firearms used (against the victim, against the victim’s children, or against other people or animals) is much more frequently a tool for ensuring the continued and effective control of the victim and suppression of her potential resistance than the actual use of firearms." They went on further to highlight that:

"The firearms used by abusers to threaten and intimidate victims (either by explicit threat or by conspicuous presence) are almost always legally obtained. In the instances where they are not personally legally obtained, they are typically legally obtained by an acquaintance. This suggests that gun control law that prohibits or restricts easy access to firearms would have an immediate impact on the breadth of threats to women’s safety."

Media has previously highlighted family violence cases where perpetrators accessed guns despite not having a firearms licence, including the murder of Leigh Wallace by her former partner who used a gun despite police revoking his gun license and seizing his guns and a man who used a shotgun near his ex-partner despite being denied a firearms licence multiple times.

Research from Australia that looked at impacts from firearm legislation found that "...background checks for license applicants and firearm prohibitions for domestic violence perpetrators may be associated with a decline in female firearm homicide victimization overall and female intimate partner firearm homicide victimization" (see An Evaluation of the Impacts of Changing Firearms Legislation on Australian Female Firearm Homicide Victimization Rates by Samara McPhedran, 2017).

See the following research articles for research on family violence and gun violence specific to Aotearoa New Zealand:

Research is also increasingly identifying links between domestic violence and violent extremism including mass shootings. For more information see our previous news story on the Links between violent extremism and violence against women.

For more research on family violence and gun violence search the term firearms in our library.

Related media

New gun laws come into effect, giving judges power to ban criminals from firearms, Stuff, 16.11.2022

Gun reform to pass into law, and 'three strikes' law repealed, Stuff, 09.08.2022

Firearms Prohibition Order Legislation Bill passes third reading in Parliament, RNZ, 09.08.2022

Government prioritises firearm prohibition orders to reduce gun harm, Beehive media release, 02.08.2022

Domestic violence agency concerned after increasing number of guns involved in family harm incidents, Newshub, 08.06.2022

Former Northland prison officer sentenced to home detention for firearms offending, NZ Herald, 06.04.2022

'It was a deliberate act, I killed Helen': After 13 years of 'untruths and lies', Matamata horse breeder admits murdering wife, NZ Herald, 22.02.2022

Firearms Prohibition Order Bill passes first reading, Te Ao Māori News, 10.02.2022

Firearms prohibition orders take the first step, RNZ, 10.02.2022

Government takes next step in tackling gun crime, Beehive media release, 09.02.2022

Bill to further tighten firearms laws passes first reading, One News, 09.02.2022

Raft of changes to New Zealand's gun laws recommended after mosque attack come into force today, NZ Herald, 01.02.2022

Govt takes further action against gang crime, Beehive media release, 11.05.2021

Image: Christin Hume on Unsplash

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