High Velocity Air Guns to Require Licence

(PR.co.nz) High-velocity air guns, that have been described as the weapon of choice for criminals, are set to require a firearms licence, Police Minister Judith Collins announced today.

Ms Collins said the Government planned to reclassify pre-charged pneumatic air guns so people who own and possess them would require a licence.

This was likely to be done by an amendment to the Arms Order 1984, which would proceed faster than an amendment to the Arms Act. It could be implemented in approximately three months.

The Arms Order would ensure that these firearms can only be possessed by a person at least 16 years old and the holder of a firearms licence, or a person under the supervision of a licence holder.

She would be seeking formal Cabinet approval in the next few weeks.

It would not apply to older-style spring loaded airguns or air guns powered by CO2 cartridges, BB guns or paintball guns.

“These high-powered air guns produce a projectile that travels almost as fast as a bullet, and have similar killing power. It is common sense for them to require a licence the way a firearm does,” Ms Collins said.

“These weapons are proving popular with violent criminals who can own and use them without having to undergo the rigorous background checks required for a firearms licence. They have been used in two homicides in this country, including the murder of Sergeant Don Wilkinson.

“The aim of any changes to firearms regulations should be to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on firearms while not penalising responsible, law abiding firearms users.

“Hunters are not criminals. Duck shooters are not criminals. Farmers who use firearms for pest control are not criminals. Target shooters are not criminals. I don’t intend to treat them like criminals.”

Ms Collins said New Zealand’s firearms laws worked well and were held in high regard internationally. However, the Government had been looking at whether the safety of the public could be improved and Police have been working on a range of policy options – not only relating to air guns – for the best part of a year.

Ms Collins said New Zealand would not be changing the firearms licensing system to register individual firearms.

“There is little evidence to suggest it would help keep guns out of the hands of criminals and improve public safety,” Ms Collins said.

“Individual firearms were registered in New Zealand in the 1950s, but the system proved unworkable and was changed in the 1980s. Efforts to register firearms in Australia and Canada were expensive failures and had little or no impact on gun crime.”

Ms Collins said Police were also looking at tightening regulations around sales of firearms so transactions by Internet and mail order go through an intermediary – such as a licensed dealer or a Police employee.

This change was likely to be done as an amendment to the Arms Act and would be subject to a longer timeframe.

Media Release 25 July 2010 from Hon Judith Collins, Minister of Police.