Gun laws in New Zealand

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Nearly 250,000 [1] licensed firearms owners own and use New Zealand's estimated 1.5 million [1] firearms.[2] As in Australia, but unlike the US and Canada, gun laws usually gain the support of both major parties before they are passed. Guns are not currently a major political issue, but have been immediately after the Aramoana massacre in 1990, and the Scottish Dunblane and Australian Port Arthur massacres in 1996.

Gun licenses are issued at the discretion of the police in New Zealand provided the police consider the person to be of good standing[citation needed] and without criminal, psychiatric or drug issues as well as meeting other conditions such as having suitable storage facilities. To be issued, they must be issued for a valid reason[citation needed], which may not include self defense[citation needed], although the law does not support this restriction for ownership for self defense[citation needed]. Several different categories of licenses are permitted, with the lowest one permitting access to restricted semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, with limited capacity, while the higher levels which permit fully automatic weaponry and pistols are rarely issued to civilians.

Various governments[vague], groups[vague] behind the Thorp reports[citation needed], and the New Zealand Police[3] have pushed for various forms of universal firearm registration. This has currently not succeeded but current maneuverings[needs update] by the New Zealand Police are attempting to reclassify large numbers of 'A' category firearms as 'E' category (military-style semi-automatics), which requires them to be registered[speculation?]. This has been done though even by their own admission[4] the New Zealand Police cannot reliably register the current military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) firearms.

In March 2009 the New Zealand police bid to reclassify certain types of civilian semi-automatic firearms was overturned by the New Zealand High Court as a result of a legal challenge mounted by the New Zealand National Shooters Association (NSA) president Richard Lincoln.[citation needed]

Current firearm law[edit]

Gun laws in New Zealand are notably more liberal than other countries in the Pacific[dubious ] and focus mainly on vetting firearm owners, rather than registering firearms or banning certain types of firearms.[5] Firearms legislation is provided for in the Arms Act and its associated regulations, though stricter unofficial police and government policies also apply.[citation needed].

Grounds to carry or use guns[edit]

Under New Zealand law, some lawful, proper, and sufficient purpose is needed to use, discharge or carry any firearm, airgun, or similar weapon anywhere. The person carrying, using, or discharging the weapon is obliged to prove the purpose was lawful, proper, and sufficient. This requirement applies even if the person can legally possess the weapon. Exactly what constitutes a lawful, proper, and sufficient purpose is not defined in legislation and needs to be proven on a case by case basis. Hunting game, pest control and agricultural uses, sports including target shooting, collection and theatrics are all normally acceptable purposes but personal protection and self defence are not.

Personal protection of VIPs[edit]

It is established law and public policy that allowing privately owned guns to be carried by people who provide personal protection to VIPs, whether foreign or domestic, is not appropriate. Armed protection, if necessary, should be provided by the New Zealand Police or the New Zealand Armed Forces.[6] In the case of the APEC Summit that New Zealand hosted in September 1999 the Arms Act had to be specifically amended to allow foreign dignitaries to be protected by their own personal protection officers, who were carrying their own firearms. The legislated regime required the New Zealand Police to work closely with the foreign dignitaries and their personal protection officers for the duration of the Summit and automatically expired at the end of the month.

The New Zealand Police has a Diplomatic Protection Service(DPS) that trains and provides protection officers to protect VIPs. DPS protection officers, unlike most New Zealand Police officers, are routinely armed while on duty.

Self defence[edit]

In the Arms Code, Police advise that self-defence is not a valid reason to possess a firearm. Because firearms are lethal weapons, a person needs to have a honest belief that they or someone else is at imminent threat of death or grievous bodily harm at the time they discharge the firearm. While the Crimes Act allows a person to use reasonable force to defend oneself or another person against assault or entry into a dwelling house, that force needs to be proportionate to any force being used to effect the assault or entry and not excessive. Preemptive action in anticipation of a threat or retribution after the threat has passed are both considered excessive force by the Courts. Even Police actions when confronting armed offenders that results in death or injury of anyone are thoroughly investigated by the Police, the Independent Police Conduct Authority and, in cases of death, the Coroner.

New Zealand cases where an ordinary person has been justified in discharging a firearm that injured or killed an assailant are rare. In April 2009 a Chinese Restaurant and Takeaways shop owner shot a masked armed robber with the robber's own gun after wresting it off him. Police decided against laying charges. In 2006 a gunshop employee shot a machete-wielding armed robber with a handgun that was hidden under the counter. The court dismissed the charges that Police laid.[7]


The driver of a vehicle is deemed to be the person who is in possession of any firearm in that vehicle, unless they can prove otherwise. Firearms cannot be left in unattended vehicles. Firearms carried in vehicles must be unloaded and any magazine must be empty.

Unlawful use[edit]

Possessing a firearm or other weapon that could cause bodily injury or intimidate the threat or fear of violence is an aggravating factor in criminal offending and can be a criminal offence on its own. Police responses to such behaviour can have potentially lethal consequences as the Police Armed Offenders Squad are trained to shoot to kill, not disable, if less lethal options do not resolve a situation.

Categories of firearms[edit]

Firearms in New Zealand fall into one of four categories:

  • Pistols are firearms shorter than 762 mm (30 in).
  • Restricted weapons include machine guns, selective-fire assault rifles, grenades and rocket launchers. This category also includes some non-firearm weapons such as pepper spray. Cabinet can declare things to be restricted weapons by regulation.
  • Military-style semi-automatics (MSSAs) include semi-automatic rifles and shotguns that have one or more of the following components:
    • A folding or telescopic butt
    • A bayonet lug
    • A military pattern free-standing pistol grip
    • A flash suppressor
    • A magazine that holds more than 7 rounds (magazines holding a maximum of 10 rounds may be modified internally to hold only 7 as per legislation) excepting rimfire, where the limit is 15 rounds per magazine.
    • A detachable magazine that appears to hold more than 10 rounds (excepting rimfire; 15 rounds).
  • A Category firearms are those that do not fall into any other category, and are the vast majority of legally-owned firearms in New Zealand, and support a surprisingly wide number of types. For example semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles are permitted in this category provided they can only hold 7 or less rounds as well as meeting the other criteria.

Registration is not required under the law but the police carry out a regime similar to registration for all but "A Category" firearms. Firearms in any other category require a "permit to procure" before they are transferred.

Firearm license[edit]

Except under the direct supervision (i.e. arms reach) of a licence holder, a person who possesses or uses firearms needs to hold a firearms licence issued by the police. Firearms licences are issued for 10 years but can be revoked at any time if Police believe the person is no longer fit and proper to possess a firearm. Visitors to New Zealand can apply from overseas for a 1 year visitor's licence based on their existing licence in their country of residence. Frequent visitors are encouraged to apply for a 10 year licence. Licence holders who possess or use pistols or military style semi-automatic firearms, as well as collectors, require additional endorsements. Firearms dealers and their employees need an annual dealers licence for their place of business. Only licence holders can buy, sell, or exchange firearms and permits to procure are needed for restricted firearms and the licence holders need to have the appropriate current endorsements. Importing or exporting personally owned firearms requires permits and the person needs to be a current licence holder with the appropriate endorsements.

To be issued with a firearms licence the applicant needs to be a fit and proper person and over the age of 16. They also need to have adequate secure storage for firearms, as well as attending a safety program administered by the Mountain Safety Council and pass a written safety test, pay the requisite fee, as well supply passport standard photographs with their personal application. The police will interview the applicant and two referees (one must be a close relative and the other not related) to determine whether the applicant is "fit and proper" to have a firearm. The applicant's residence is also visited to check that they have appropriate storage for firearms and ammunition and to ensure any other people living there are not a security risk. Having criminal associations or a history of domestic violence almost always leads to a licence being refused. An application could also be refused if a person has indicators of drug or alcohol abuse, has previously been refused a firearms licence or had one revoked, or has some physical, mental health or disability issue that would prevent them possessing or using a firearm safely.

About 250,000 [8] people hold a New Zealand Firearms licence, although one in ten do not own any firearms.

A standard firearms licence allows the use of "A Category" firearms. To possess firearms of another category a person is required to get an endorsement to their licence. There are different endorsements for different classes of firearm but they all require a higher level of storage security, stricter vetting requirements and the applicant must have an end use for wanting the endorsement. Be it pest control for E cat, cowboy shooting and 3-gun for B cat, or just wanting to collect (provided one has adequate storage security) for C cat.

Each endorsement type has additional requirements

B Endorsement – Target (competition) pistols

  • Applicant must be a current financial member of a pistol club, a financial member of Pistol New Zealand (or in some cases membership of an approved club) and have attended at least 12 club shoots in the last 6 months before they can apply
  • Applicant must be sponsored by their club
  • The endorsement holder must attend at least 12 club activities (either at their home club or to another recognised club) in a financial year
  • Normally limited to no more than 12 pistols registered to their licence
  • Pistols must be of an approved sporting type i.e. barrel length of more than 10 cm (3.9 in)
  • Pistols can only be carried to and from the range in a locked container with ammunition in a separate container or to a gunsmith
  • Pistols may only be shot on a Police approved pistol club range.

C Endorsement – Restricted weapons

Pistols can also be held on the C endorsement instead of the B. Common special reasons include:

  • Collecting (must provide evidence in the form of books, club membership, collection of A type firearms), Museum curator, Family heirlooms and Theatrical.
  • C category firearms must be stored in an inoperable condition
  • Can never be used with live ammunition, but blanks are allowed for movie making and re-enacting
  • Can only be taken to an approved display venue, re-enactment event or to another collector for sale.

D Licence – Dealers licence

For those that make an income from firearms. To sell restricted weapons the dealer also needs to have the appropriate endorsements.

  • Renewed annually
  • Further security requirements
  • Must maintain a record (usually a book or register) of firearm purchases and sales.

E Endorsement – Military-style semi-automatics

New class of restricted weapon that was created after the Aramoana shooting spree. At the time anyone with an MSSA that wanted to keep it in that configuration was given a E endorsement (after going through the vetting and extra security requirements). But presently few are issued. Common reasons for wanting an E endorsement are professional pest destruction, collecting, 3-gun and service rifle shooting. Those people that did not want the extra hassle and expense of the endorsement converted their rifles into 'A' configuration by removing the components that made it an 'E'.

F Endorsement – Dealers staff licence

This class allows a person working for a dealer to demonstrate a pistol, military-style semi-automatic or a collectable weapon without having to have that class of licence. They can demonstrate one but not possess one for personal use. This is not a well known endorsement

Buying and selling[edit]

Anyone buying firearms or ammunition, whether privately or from a dealer, needs to show their firearms licence. In addition, a permit to procure must be obtained prior to the transfer of pistols, military-style semi-automatics and restricted weapons.

Mail-order and internet sales[edit]

Sales can be made by mail-order, but a police officer must sign the order form to verify that the purchaser has a firearms licence.

Comparisons with other jurisdictions[edit]

Gun laws in New Zealand have been characterised as being more liberal than many other jurisdictions, though less permissive than the United States of America. The main reason for this is that New Zealand licences people to use firearms, but does not register most of the firearms they own, buy or sell. Additionally, firearms licence holders are trained to behave safely and responsibly with firearms. Several other countries also require firearms owners undertake firearms training or pass competency tests. In New Zealand, like Australia and the United Kingdom, possessing a firearm is a privilege and self defence is not a good reason to possess one. New Zealand has a "fit and proper person" requirement, similar to Australia, with background checks including domestic violence or addiction, similar to Canada, and checking that unfit people cannot access stored firearms, similar to Great Britain, and safe storage, similar to several other countries.[9] In his 1997 report, Thorp believed the differences in firearms policies between New Zealand and Australia did not account for the similarity in the indicator statistics he used to compare jurisdictions. He also noted that the United States stood out in his indicators and observed that handguns were not tightly regulated and featured prominently in that country's statistics.

Personal licences[edit]

By licencing people who use firearms the legislation seeks to control users behaviour rather than the firearms themselves, since it is the user and not the firearm which posed a potential danger to society. This is intended to mimimise the risk of firearms getting into the wrong hands. Concentrating on users also reduced the administrative burden on police, and allows users to pursue lawful activities without undue restrictions or excessive cost. The system was also intended to be both self-funding and self-regulating as the licensed community could sell among themselves, without the added expense of a State permit and registration system. [10]

While the Arms Act and its associated regulations may seem liberal, they need to be interpreted in the context of police policy, established case law and government policies and the intent of Parliament. In New Zealand, like Australia and the United Kingdom, owning a firearm is seen as a privilege, not a right, and those entrusted with that privilege need to behave in an appropriate manner, or lose the privilege. Consequently, a Firearms Licence can be revoked by police, although due process is required and the revocation can be appealed.

Thorp found various firearms indicator statistics such as suicides and homicide by firearms were similar to those in Australia and Canada, which registered firearms, and markedly lower than the United States, which had a far higher proportion of handgun ownership and higher overall owners of firearms. The slight differences between Australia and New Zealand could not be accounted for by differences in firearms registration policy. Nevertheless, he proposed registering the firearms held by a licence holder at the same time as the licence holder applied for a new firearms licence.

Lack of gun registration[edit]

Thorp explains the decision not to register long guns is based on Police experience with auditing the registration of rifles and shotguns between 1967 and 1973 as well their inability to originally cope with firearms registration in 1920 and a partial registration of shotguns beginning in 1968. Between 1920 and 1968, shotguns did not need to be registered. Police found that about two-thirds of the firearms records Police held were inaccurate, and many rifles could not be found. This was mostly due to firearms users not informing Police of a change of address. At the time, Police estimated it would take 11 years to bring the register up to date with existing resources, by which time it would again be inaccurate. Police concluded it would be far less resource intensive to register the firearms users rather than the firearms. Thorp noted that registering firearms primarily provide an investigative resource for Police but believed the cost of ensuring all firearms were registered was not justified. He and Newbold have both also observed that offenders reported they could easily obtain firearms from others in the criminal community or else steal them during a burglary. Additionally, registering firearms has proved so deeply unpopular with New Zealand firearms owners, since it requires their co-operation to make any registration system work, that Parliament was unable to enact any of Thorp's recommendations for the next 10 years, despite 2 changes of government.

New Zealand Police cite evidence to support New Zealand's minimal approach. In 2008, Inspector Joe Green, in dispelling myths about firearms control, noted that Police couldn't maintain an accurate register for pistols, MSSAs or restricted weapons they did register despite 10 yearly audits. He also noted that even though Australia registered all lawfully owned firearms, those that were used in homicides were not registered and the offenders were not licenced. Green observed that registers only become useful if registers are accurate and comprehensive.


Up to 1983[edit]

Firearms first arrived in New Zealand with European traders and were traded in large numbers to the native Māori. This lead partly to the Musket Wars of the early 19th century. The first gun control laws were enacted in 1845, but early regulations were ineffective until the passage of the Arms Act in 1860, which required licences and registration of firearms and firearm dealers. Early laws were mainly targeted at Māori during the land wars in the Waikato and Taranaki, and were largely suspended at the end of the 1880s. By about 1910 the laws were ignored and unenforced, as crime and the threat of political unrest were minimal.

Strikes in 1912 and 1913, a Communist revolution in Russia, and large numbers of ex-military guns coming into the country after World War I were used as justification for a new law in 1920. The new law required the registration of all firearms and issuance of a "permit to procure" before a firearm was transferred. Semi-automatic pistols were banned and a special permit was needed for other pistols (e.g. revolvers), with the intent of discouraging the carrying of concealed weapons. Few changes were seen for the next forty years as crime remained low and the country avoided political violence.

Increasing gun crime in the 1960s led to greater police use of registration records, which were generally inaccurate or out-of-date. A project to check the register began in 1967, and found that 66 percent of entries were inaccurate in some way, with many guns not to be found at all. Police thought that the register was largely useless, and that substantial resources would be needed to keep it up-to-date. It was believed that the government would be unlikely to provide the resources required to update the register and that it would be politically difficult to demand registration information from firearm owners. Various new laws were introduced in the 1970s and 80s, proposing more government checks, registration of shotguns (which had been abandoned) and individual licensing.

An internal police report in 1982 criticised the proposals, saying there was no evidence that registration of guns helped to solve crimes, and that registration would use time and money better spent on other police work. This policy was adopted by the government in the 1983 Act.[11]

Arms Act 1983[edit]

The 1983 Arms Act abandoned registration for most long guns, as Parliament felt it was prohibitively expensive and not particularly useful. The philosophy of the new system was to control users, rather than firearms. Police were required to conduct a background check before a licence would be issued (though existing owners would be issued a licence automatically), but once a person had a licence there was no requirement to register long guns or obtain a permit-to-procure when they were sold or lent.

Special restrictions applied to restricted weapons and pistols, which needed to be registered. but the new sport of target pistol shooting has become more popular, and pistol club shooters can own pistols with a special "B" endorsement.

Aramoana and the 1992 amendments to the Act[edit]

After the Aramoana massacre in November 1990, John Banks, the Minister for Police, announced that the government would ban what he and others described as "Rambo-style" weapons and substantially tighten gun laws generally. The law was eventually passed in 1992 and required written permits to order guns or ammunition by mail order, restricted ammunition sales to firearms licence holders, added photographs to firearms licences, required licence holders to have secure storage for firearms at their homes (which would be inspected before a licence was issued), and, controversially, required all licence holders to be re-vetted for new licences, which would be valid for only 10 years.

The law also created the new category of "military-style semi-automatic", which like the Federal Assault Weapons Ban two years later in the United States, mainly covered the appearance rather than the functionality of the guns. These required a special endorsement, security and registration in the same manner as pistols, but could be used wherever A-category guns could.

Thorp Report 1997[edit]

After two shootings by police in 1995, the government ordered an inquiry into police procedures for storing and using firearms. Before the review started, massacres overseas at Dunblane and Port Arthur led the government to expand the scope to gun control generally. The police reported in May 1996[12] that the system was sound and that no major changes were needed.

The government decided in August 1996 to order an independent report, this time led by former judge Thomas Thorp. His report was released in June 1997 and was the most comprehensive and detailed review of the 150 years of firearms controls in New Zealand.[13] Thorps report explored how New Zealand had arrived at its existing legislation, its underlying principles, its effectiveness compared to other countries, its administration and cost. Thorp made numerous detailed recommendations in 28 different areas. His recommendations called for many new restrictions on legal gun ownership, including setting up a separate Firearms Authority to overhaul the licencing process, restricting ammunition sales to just the firearms owned, banning various firearms features, that licences be renewed every three years to kep track of changes of address and that all guns be registered (the last being particularly unpopular with firearm owners).

An appraisal of Thorp's recommendations by criminologist Greg Newbold who concluded that while Thorp's report was a valuable snapshot concerning firearms controls in New Zealand but thought it would be politically difficult implementing most recommendations and would depend on the additional resources the government was prepared to devote to implementing them, though he doubted their cost effectiveness in any case.[13] Newbold also argued that none of Thorp's recommendations would have prevented any of the post-1990 massacres, because criminals would still have access to unlawfully guns that were not subject to any controls and only another massacre would generate enough political will to implement Thorp's recommendations in any case.

Arms Amendment Bills 2 and 3 (1999 to 2012)[edit]

The National government in 1999, its last year in office, introduced an Arms Amendment (No. 2) Bill to implement the recommendations, and the bill was supported by the new Labour government. After the strong weight of submissions made against the bill when it was in select committee, the government was persuaded that the changes were unneeded and would be difficult to implement. Due to the opposition, the bill was withdrawn. The government then introduced a much reduced Arms Amendment (No. 3) Bill, which increased penalties for distribution, manufacture and use of illegal weapons. It has been in select committee since 2005, and the government has not shown any sign of proceeding with it.

2009 to today[edit]

In August 2009, the Police decided that any firearm, including single shot bolt action rifles, with a free-standing pistol grip that could allow the firearm to be shot inaccurately from the hip would be defined as an MSSA.[14] However, the High Court rejected this attempt in Lincoln v Police [2010] BCL 194; 33 TCL 11/2. Parliament subsequently amended the Arms Act as a result of the court decision.[15]

In 2015, a TV reporter demonstrated how to subvert processes to purchase a gun by mail-order.[16] Police promptly changed their mail-order processes and commenced a criminal investigation.

In March 2016, after Police seized 14 illegally owned MSSA weapons in a raid in south Auckland and 4 officers were shot during an armed siege in Kawerau,[17] Parliament's Law and Order Select Committee announced an Inquiry into issues relating to the illegal possession of firearms in New Zealand.[18] In their final report the committee made 20 recommendations, of which the National government accepted 7 and modified another.[19] The government introduced the Arms (Firearm Prohibition Orders and Firearms Licences) Amendment Bill to implement several of the recommendations shortly before the 2017 election but it lapsed with the change of government. It was subsequently drawn as a private member's bill but it failed to pass at the first reading.[20] The Minister also directed Police to improve their administrative processes and consultation with the firearms community.

Amendments to the Arms Regulations 2002, to allow Police to accept and process various applications concerning firearms licences and weapons transactions electronically were included in the Arms (Electronic Transactions) Amendment Regulations 2018[21] that were published in the Gazette on 20 December 2018, commence 28 days afterwards.

New Zealand Gun Culture[edit]

As a largely agricultural society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, long guns were a familiar tool for many people and outdoor pursuits involving guns, such as hunting, were often a source of food and sometimes provided an income as well.[10] However, with increasing urbanisation during the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century together with greater reporting of armed robberies and gun violence by the New Zealand media, both in New Zealand and overseas, has raised public awareness that guns are unsafe and a sign of criminal activity.

The Arms Code advises firearms owners to transport their firearms in a padded cover or hard case, so guns are now rarely seen in public. As a consequence firearms are rarely seen in public. These days a person openly carrying a gun in public in an urban area is likely to alarm people and result in emergency calls to Police. Also, New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where police officers routinely go unarmed. Media reports that police were armed receive wide coverage and photographs or video of armed police officers make good media copy. However, the Police Association, which represents police officers themselves, have called for gun registration and routine arming of police because officers report they are more frequently encounter criminals who are prepared to use firearms against police, or finding firearms at crime scenes or during search warrants. But there are few others calling for reform and most New Zealanders support the existing policy or do not hold a strong opinion.

Notable groups[edit]


The New Zealand Police administer and enforce the Arms Act 1983.[22] They are issued Bushmaster XM-15 semi-automatic rifles, Glock 17 gen 4 pistols, and Tasers, which are normally carried in patrol cars and not on the officers.[relevant? ][23]

Lobby groups[edit]

The New Zealand Police Association, the police union / service association, has repeatedly lobbied for greater access to firearms for police officers.[24][25][26] As well as stricter regulations on licensed firearm owners.[27][28][29]

The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners (COLFO) was set up in 1996.

The Sporting Shooters Association of New Zealand is a part-time lobby group that is usually only active at elections and when there are government calls for gun control laws. It is smaller than COLFO.

The National Shooters Association is a nationwide civilian gun owners association that took the forefront in a 2009 legal challenge against unauthorised police interference with gun regulations. Its executive is largely made up of former members of the Practical Shooting Institute, a predecessor group which had similar success bringing court action against Police interference in 1990.

The two major anti-gun groups in recent years have been the Coalition for Gun Control, and Gunsafe NZ. Neither is still active, but were led by activist Philip Alpers and Mike Meyrick, a former police officer and lawyer.[30]

Positions of political parties[edit]

The main parties, Labour and National, generally treat gun control as a bi-partisan issue. Both support the passage of the Arms Amendment (No. 3) Bill[citation needed].

The Outdoor Recreation party was formed in 2001 to support hunting and sport fishing. It failed to gain any seats in 2002, and again in 2005, when, with the United Future party, it contested the election.[citation needed]

The Green Party supports an increase in legislative restrictions on public access to firearms.[31] The Greens policies include the full ban of private ownership of all semi automatic firearms and the reintroduction of a national firearms registry.[32]

The New Zealand First party supports the right of New Zealanders to own and use firearms safely and responsibly for hunting, sport, pest control, target shooting, and Home Defence (Castle Doctrine). The Party does not support calls for universal gun registration, preferring the licensing of individual users. New Zealand First believes restrictions on firearms ownership by type should be dictated by functionality rather than appearance.[citation needed]

Statistical indicators[edit]

The Thorp inquiry found reliable information was not available to answer basic questions about the number and types of firearms owned, used, traded, sold by the army, lost, stolen, or destroyed; people owning and using firearms legally or illegally; surrendered, revoked or refused firearms licences; relicencing compliance; crime committed with firearms and even the cost of administering licencing and enforcement.[33]

Firearms licence holders[edit]

Nearly 250,000 [1] people currently hold a New Zealand Firearms licence. In 1997, Thorp found that in 1982, prior to the introduction of lifetime licences, Police had estimated there were about 300,000 firearms owners who could apply for a lifetime firearms licence under the 1983 Act. Also, by 1991 there were 327,000 lifetime licence holders who were required to reapply for a 10 year photographic licence, or else surrender their lifetime licence. Thorp estimated that by 1998 only 204,000 would do so, given a 60% call-in compliance rate, which suggested between 90,000 and 120,000 licence holders had not responded to the call-in notices, probably because their address had changed and so they had not received a call-in. Poor record keeping by Police of surrendered lifetime licences prior to 1994 further complicated matters.

Gun ownership[edit]

The number of people who own or use guns in New Zealand is not known. Anyone over the age of 18 can own or use an air gun or antique firearm, these do not need to be registered provided the gun is not a restricted weapon. Also a range of "safe" firearms that are used as agricultural or construction tools do not require a firearms licence. Also, holding a firearms licence does not imply a person has to owns the gun they possess or use; the firearm could be owned by a business or organisation, club, dealer, or another licence holder, or be part of a deceased person's estate and held on trust for safekeeping. Thorp noted that a 1989 survey found that 9% of licence holders did not own a firearm. Also, a survey conducted for Thorp's 1997 review found 20% of New Zealand's households had a gun and there were about 1.8 gun users per household. If that were so then it would mean between there were between 350,000 and 400,000 gun users; and possibly a lack of public awareness about the responsibilities associated with gun use.

Civilian armory[edit]

There are an estimated 1.5 million [1][2] firearms in the New Zealand civilian armory, although this figure could be an over-estimate if it is merely extrapolated from estimates made by Thorp in 1997.

In 1997, Thorp estimated there were between 750,000 and a million firearms in New Zealand, He also believed about three-fifths were rifles and about two-fifths were shotguns, though the exact ratio is uncertain because the different surveys he used provided different estimates. Details of the majority of firearms would only be known to their owners, who are encouraged to keep a record of the firearms they own, buy or sell.

The number of unlawfully held firearms is even more uncertain. Thorp estimated that there were between 10,000 and 25,000 firearms in the hands of people with criminal intent, along with possibly another 100,000 "grey guns" that unlicenced people held but not for criminal purposes.

Since only pistols and military style semi-automatic firearms need to be registered with Police, their numbers are more certain, though changes in legislation mean that if a firearm was not registered at the time it might remain unregistered.

Information sources[edit]

Apart from the Thorp report[33] itself, most statistical information about firearms numbers, licencing and trading is only available from the New Zealand Police. Although Police publish some information in its annual reports or when reporting to Select Committees, most information is only made available as a result of requests for Official Information. In June 2018, Police announced that they would proactively publish responses to Official Information Act requests that contained data or information about firearms that might be of wide public interest.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Manch, Thomas (2018-08-05). "NZ's battle over semi-automatics: Police frustrated by the law, firearm owners frustrated by police". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  2. ^ a b "Kiwis go for the big guns", Dominion Post, Tuesday 7 November 2006. Quoted at Gun Control blog (archive), but not available from the newspaper's website any more.
  3. ^ Taylor, Phil (20 June 2009). "'Sporting' guns now classified military". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  4. ^ New Zealand Police firearms control presentation[dead link]
  5. ^ From the Arms Code Archived 24 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Alliance minority view (1999). Arms Amendment Bill: As Reported From The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee (Report). New Zealand Government. p. iii. 1999 (237-2). Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  7. ^ Tapaleao, Vaimoana (25 Aug 2010). "What the law says on self defence". New Zealand Herald. Auckland. Retrieved 21 January 2019.
  8. ^ Manch, Thomas (2018-08-05). "NZ's battle over semi-automatics: Police frustrated by the law, firearm owners frustrated by police". Stuff. Retrieved 2019-01-21.
  9. ^ The Law Library of Congress (February 2013). Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy (PDF) (Report). Library of Congress. p. Table 1, 4-12. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b Thorp 1997
  11. ^ Thorp, T.M.: "Review of Firearms Control in New Zealand", 1997 Archived 14 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Thorp, 1997
  13. ^ a b Newbold, Greg (December 1998). "The 1997 Review of Firearms Control: An Appraisal". Social Policy Journal of New Zealand. Wellington: Centre for Social Research and Evaluation (11). ISSN 1177-9837. Retrieved 29 January 2019 – via Ministry of Social Development. Lay summary.
  14. ^ "Police warning on new weapons rules". Taranaki Daily News.
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  22. ^
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  25. ^
  26. ^
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  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^ Boyes, Nicola (26 January 2005). "Ex-cop 'ignored law to view child porn'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  31. ^ "Green Party Justice Policy – Gun Control". Archived from the original on 1 December 2008. Retrieved 14 May 2008.
  32. ^ [1]
  33. ^ a b Thorp, Thomas (20 June 1997). "1.3 Significance of Weak Information Base". Review of Firearms Control in New Zealand: Report of an Independent Inquiry Commissioned by the Minister of Police (PDF). Wellington: GP Print. pp. 5–7. ISBN 0-477-01796-7. Retrieved 21 January 2019 – via New Zealand Police.
  34. ^ "Firearms Official Information Act proactive public releases (June 2018)". New Zealand Police. June 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2019.

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