Second gun buyback planned for 2021

A briefing to new Police Minister Poto Williams shows that police are preparing for a second gun buyback scheme.
A briefing to new Police Minister Poto Williams shows that police are preparing for a second gun buyback scheme. Photo credit: Newshub / Getty

There are quiet plans for a second gun buyback scheme in 2021 to recover a group of firearms now prohibited after the Government passed a second tranche of law reforms. 

The Government on Tuesday unveiled a swathe of briefings to incoming ministers, known as BIMs, and a briefing to new Police Minister Poto Williams shows that police are preparing for a second gun buyback scheme. 

"On 3 August 2020, Cabinet agreed to the policy design for a buyback of items that were newly prohibited or restricted by the Arms Legislation Act 2020," the briefing reads. 

"This enables regulations to be made in 2020 for a compensation scheme to commence in early 2021 and run for six months. Police will provide you with draft regulations in November 2020."

The Government banned military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles in the wake of the 2019 March 15 Christchurch terror attack, and by June 2020 a second tranche of gun law reforms had been passed in Parliament. 

Among tougher penalties for possessing an illegal firearm and reduced length of gun licences, the new reforms included a ban on further "high-risk firearms" including short (pistol-length) semi-automatic rifles.

There were also new requirements for lawful possession of a pistol carbine conversion kit which converts a pistol into a shoulder-fired firearm. 

The group of additional prohibited firearms:

  • Centre-fire pump-action rifles capable of being used with a detachable magazine
  • Centre-fire pump-action rifles with one or more non-detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 cartridges
  • Semi-automatic pistols excluding those defined as a "small semi-automatic pistols" as mentioned on the police website

An amnesty for unlawful possession of the newly prohibited items and pistol carbine conversion kits is in place for anyone who continues to possess them, provided they lawfully possessed the item before commencement of the legislation. 

The amnesty will end six months after regulations are put in place providing compensation for the items. Police say work is underway on a compensation scheme but regulations need to be passed first and police will provide more details. 

Newshub understands police have a good idea of who possesses the newly prohibited items. 

The first six-month gun buyback scheme which ran until December 2019 collected 61,332 prohibited firearms as at February 2020, with the final cost of compensation estimated to be $120 million.

But no one could be certain how many prohibited firearms existed before the law change. Police estimates suggested it could range from 55,000 to 240,000 firearms.

It cost more to administer the scheme than first anticipated. The initial estimate of $18 million grew to $35 million which police met from internal budgets. 

The Auditor-General was unable to determine if New Zealanders were any safer as a result of the Government's gun buyback scheme because police did not know for sure how many firearms and parts were in the community. 

"Without this information, we do not yet know how effective the scheme was and whether implementing the scheme has delivered value for money."

The next phase of the Government's second tranche of gun law reforms is the new $50 million gun register by 2023 and a warning system to show if a licence holder is a fit and proper person by December 24.

Police also plan to tighten up the gun licencing scheme after the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terror attack found that the terrorist was able to obtain a firearms licence too easily.  

The Royal Commission described the police gun licencing system as "lax, open to easy exploitation" and "gamed" by the terrorist.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster apologised and conceded that there were "some hard lessons" for police in the report but also opportunities to improve.