What to know about second gun buyback and all the other gun law changes

The Government has confirmed that a second three-month gun buyback scheme will take place this year, as previously reported by Newshub in December. 

The Government banned military-style semi-automatics and assault rifles in the wake of the March 15, 2019 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. 

Police Minister Poto Williams confirmed on Friday that a buyback scheme will take place this year to compensate owners of the newly prohibited items. 

Deputy Commissioner Jevon McSkimming said police are working with a smaller group this time so they can take a more "individualised" approach. 

"We know from the 2019 buyback that one on one interactions and discussions with licence holders are key to running a smooth and informed buyback," he said. 

"We have also been able start engaging directly with the firearms owners we know are most likely to have these items. However, to do our absolute best to reach everybody we will be running an advertising and media campaign, and we will have some drop in days when collection teams are at sites for people who haven't booked ahead."

The group of additional prohibited items:

  • 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. 

"Once this group of firearms came to the Government's attention, it was clear we had to act again to ensure all the good work done to keep our communities safe last year was not compromised," Williams said. 

"This year's buyback will look very different to the one in 2019 as there will be no large-scale collection events. Police will be managing the smaller buyback through appointments at police stations."

The Government has allocated $15.5 million for compensation and administrative costs.

Details of the second buyback:

  • An amnesty period is in place for six months until August 1. The buyback scheme will commence on February 1 and end on May 1. 
  • The buyback price will reflect the brand, make and model of the prohibited item, as well as its base price and condition. 
  • The compensation for newly prohibited firearms and pistol carbine conversion kits will be 95 percent of the base price for those in new or near-new condition; 70 percent of base price for those in used condition; and 25 percent of base price for those in poor condition. 
  • You will only be compensated for a newly prohibited item if you have a valid firearms licence. 
  • Dealers and manufacturers will be compensated for stock and applications must be made within 60 days, with supporting evidence then provided within 20 days. 
  • Hand-ins will take place at police stations by appointment, given the much smaller number of firearms expected to be collected this time. To make an appointment email buyback2021@police.govt.nz.  
  • You can apply to possess and use prohibited firearms and pistol carbine conversion kits now but it must be submitted within 60 days - by April 2 - of the start of the buyback. 
  • There will be no modifications allowed for this group of prohibited firearms. 
  • The price list can be found here
Police Minister Poto Williams and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Police Minister Poto Williams and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

Other gun law changes:

  • The duration of a firearms licence for first-time applicants has been changed to five years, rather than 10. This is also the case if you are applying after your previously held licence expires, or is revoked or surrendered. 
  • Visitors to New Zealand who are issued a licence for up to a year will no long be able to purchase firearms for possession or use in New Zealand. Those with a visitors' licence can important their own firearm, lease, hire or borrow one, or purchase a firearms for immediate export. 
  • The penalty for possessing a non-prohibited firearm without a licence is now up to one year imprisonment or a fine of up to $15,000. 
  • An import permit is now required to bring in ammunition, pistol carbine conversion kits, air pistol carbine conversion kits and all blank-firing firearms. 

The first six-month gun buyback scheme - which ran until December 2019 - collected 60,297 firearms, modified a further 5630 firearms, and brought in 299,837 prohibited parts and magazines. 

The scheme was estimated to have cost more than $100 million. 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. 

National MP Simeon Brown.
National MP Simeon Brown. Photo credit: Newshub

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

National's police spokesperson Simeon Brown described the gun buyback scheme as "merely a marketing exercise", given that after spending more than $100 million, the Government couldn't confirm if it had made New Zealand safer or if it had collected all prohibited firearms.

"That's because most law-abiding New Zealanders handed in their now-prohibited firearms, but gangs and criminals, those who pose the greatest risk to our safety, did not."

There are plans to establish a firearms register, but Brown doubts it will help because even if it's put in place, prohibited firearms will never appear in it.