Gun register not about gun owners, but those who steal them - Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says a proposed gun register isn't about going after law-abiding firearms owners, but rather the people who steal them.

The Government announced a proposed second tranche of reform to gun control legislation on Monday, which includes a register and gun licence renewals every five years.

Ardern told The AM Show on Tuesday it's estimated New Zealand has around 1.5 million guns, but that figure should be taken with a grain of salt.

"We don't register firearms, that's not to say we didn't have a better handle of it. Roughly, the 1980s and before that it was paper-based.

"I've had police officers talk about a time when there would be a call out they would know how many firearms would be in the home that they're visiting, that's not the case now."

But Ardern said it's important to make a distinction the reforms aren't about cracking down on "law-abiding" firearms users.

"Nine percent of crime committed with firearms are committed by licenced firearm holders so there are still a few, but by and large they are law-abiding.

"However, it doesn't stop their guns being stolen, potentially if they're not held and secured properly and then entering into the black market.

"So this does give us a bit more information and help us track those weapons."

She did make it clear that there needs to be a bit more scrutiny on people who hold licences though, pointing out the alleged gunman from the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch fell into the category of a "law-abiding citizen".

"He had a gun licence and yet there are things we know about that individual now that are really raising questions for people."

Will it work?


Opponents of the gun register have pointed out overseas jurisdictions have failed to get one over the line.

"Where we look at what's occurring overseas at the moment with western Australia, for example, they are questioning the registration system that they have in place," Council of Licenced Firearms Owners secretary Nicole McKee said.

Ardern is confident New Zealand can adhere to a gun register, saying other countries have had issues with multiple jurisdictions and police forces.

"I'm not sure that we can compare necessarily to some of the experiences offshore... there is some benefit to being a small country, we can have a singular system alongside our singular police force."