Firearms licence (New Zealand)

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In New Zealand, a firearms licence is required by:

  • anyone wishing to possess or use firearms,
  • arms dealers, and their employees, and
  • anyone under 18 years of age who wants to use or possess air guns.

Self-defence is not a valid reason to possess firearms in New Zealand.[1]

There are exemptions from the need for a licence for police, military and related occupations, and for the use of firearms when closely supervised by licence-holders. In addition certain types of firearms - such as humane killers, tranquiliser guns, flare pistols, antiques - may be used and possessed without a licence.

The statutory basis for licensing of firearms use in New Zealand is laid out in the Arms Act and Arms Regulations.[2] The act is administered by the New Zealand Police, according to policies documented in the Police Arms Manual.[3]

Granting of licences[edit]

Licences are issued at the discretion of the police. The possession of firearms is considered a privilege, rather than a right.[4][5]

A privilege is a right, immunity or advantage protected by law. The Arms Act states that firearms licences shall be issued to fit and proper persons. This is directive not discretionary. The licences are issued - not granted.

To be granted a licence, the applicant must:

  • Be 16 or older;
  • Be a "fit and proper person" to possess and use firearms;
  • Attend a safety lecture given by a volunteer from the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council;
  • Pass a written test based on the material in the Arms Code,[6] a booklet compiled jointly by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and the Police;
  • Have a police officer inspect the security at the applicant's home (a gun rack, safe, strongroom or "receptacle of stout construction" is required);
  • Undergo an interview with a police officer;
  • Provide two referees, one a relative and one not, to vouch for the applicant;
  • Pay NZD$126.50.[7]

Licences are issued for a period of 10 years.

The "fit and proper person" test[edit]

As part of the application for a licence, the police will assess whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to possess and use firearms. An applicant will not be considered fit and proper if he/she:

  • has been subject to a protection order;
  • has shown disregard for the Arms Act or Arms Regulations, e.g. through a series of minor infractions;
  • has been involved in substance abuse;
  • has committed a serious criminal offence or any crimes involving violence or drugs;
  • is affiliated with a criminal gang;
  • has perpetrated acts or threats of domestic violence;
  • exhibits signs of mental ill health;
  • has attempted to commit suicide or displayed other self injurious behaviour.

General Licence[edit]

The "general" (or "type A") licence gives permission to own and use "sporting configuration" firearms. A sporting configuration firearm is a rifle or shotgun that does not meet the legal definition of any of a Military-Style Semi-Automatic (MSSA), "Restricted Weapon" or "pistol". Sporting configuration firearms are not individually registered, and licence-holders may own as many as they wish and buy or sell them freely from/to other licence-holders or dealers.


Under certain circumstances, a licence may carry endorsements to allow the possession and use of other types of weapons, as follows:

Endorsement Use
B Allows the holder to possess and use pistols. Granted only to bona fide members of pistol clubs. Weapons held under a "B" endorsement may only be fired at an approved pistol range, and are subject to strict controls on carriage away from the owner's home.
C Allows the holder to possess and use pistols and restricted weapons. Granted only to bona fide collectors, to people for whom a particular weapon has a special significance (e.g. as an heirloom), to museum curators, and to theatre, film and TV production armourers. Weapons held under a "C" endorsement may not be fired with live ammunition, though blanks may be fired for film, TV and theatre purposes.
E Allows the holder to possess and use MSSAs. Granted only to applicants showing a genuine reason for needing to use an MSSA - such as professional hunting, or participation in service-rifle or IPSC 3-gun competitions.
D, F Special endorsements for firearms dealers.

Endorsements are granted only after further police vetting, and a higher standard of firearm storage security is required. Each application for an endorsement costs NZ$200.[7]

Weapons other than sporting-configuration rifles and shotguns must be individually registered, and transfer of possession is subject to prior approval by the police.


Visitors to New Zealand may be granted a temporary visitor's licence. "B" or "E" endorsements may be included on the licence when appropriate (e.g. an overseas competitor in a pistol shooting competition).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arms Code Section 4: Firearms Licensing", NZ Police
  2. ^ Arms Regulations 1992(SR 1992/346)
  3. ^ Police Arms Manual
  4. ^ Police v Corby (District Court Lower Hutt (MA 194/81) 5 June 1981)
  5. ^ Giles v O’Fee (District Court Wellington (MA 309/88) 29 August 1989)
  6. ^ Arms Code
  7. ^ a b New Zealand Firearm Safety and Licences