New Firearms Registration Law
The second phase of the firearms reform process that began in 2019 reached a new milestone on 24 June 2023 with the introduction of the Arms Amendment Regulations 2023.
The new firearms registry set up under the Regulations is administered by the Firearms Safety Authority. The Authority launched in late 2022. It works with the Commissioner of Police to provide a range of services related to firearms registration.
The registry will progressively impose reporting requirements on New Zealand’s 240,000 licenced firearms owners over the next five years.
For simplicity, in this article, we refer to “guns” and “weapons”. But these obligations apply to all “arms items”: firearms, magazines, pistols, restricted weapons, ‘major parts’, and pistol carbine conversion kits.
The Regulations do not currently require the registration of other parts which require a firearms licence to purchase. This includes grips, frames, chassis systems, flash suppressors, and silencers. Firearms that are inoperative do need to be registered.
The only exclusions are antique guns, and airguns (except for “especially dangerous airguns”). Guns are classed as antiques if manufactured before 1899, are held solely as antiques, and if incapable of firing rimfire and centrefire ammunition.
Firearms dealers are subject to somewhat more onerous obligations, and required to register their stock before 24 June 2025. The Authority will proactively contact dealers to advise them how to register their stock.
From 24 June 2023, gun owners can voluntarily register their weapons at any time, either by setting up a MyFirearms account on the Authority’s online portal (which allows use of the RealMe service already in use by IRD and other departments), or by phone (freephone 0800 844 431).
To register, gun owners will require details of their firearms licence, and the identification details for their weapons (including manufacturer, year of manufacture, action, calibre/gauge, and serial number). Any custom made weapons or other items without identifying marks will need to be registered over the telephone.
All gun owners will need to have registered their weapons with the Authority before the close of 31 August 2028 by the latest. However, an earlier deadline can apply in some circumstances.
Gun owners will need to take care of registration earlier than 31 August 2028 if:
- They apply for a new licence, endorsement, or licence renewal. New licence holders will need to register their guns when they get their licence. Renewing owners have 30 days after the renewal to register their guns.
- They buy, sell, supply, or receive a gun. The item that changes hands must be registered as soon as practicable after the weapon changes hands, and they must register all of their guns (even those not changing hands) within a month after the transfer.
- They import a gun. That item must be registered within 30 days after the gun is released by customs, and all their other weapons must be registered a month after that same day.
- They manufacture or export a gun. That item must be registered within five days after the export or manufacture is complete, and all their other weapons must be registered a month after that same day.
- They notify the Police that they have lost a gun, had one stolen, or have destroyed a firearm. In that case, they will need to register that gun immediately, and their other weapons within 30 days after that gun was lost, stolen, or destroyed.
Ammunition does not need to be registered. However, if a gun owner buys ammunition after 24 June 2025, they will need to register all weapons within their possession within 30 days after the purchase.
There is no charge for registering a firearm.
Where a gun changes hands, the obligation to register the change in ownership is with the person making the transfer (ie. the seller or person giving the gun away or exporting it).
If a licenced firearms owner has no items in their possession, they will still be required to register and declare “No Arms Items”.
Guns can only be registered to one licenced owner. If a person is responsible for a weapon for a club, range, organisation, or business, they will need to register the firearm against their licence.
If a gun is being loaned or given for safekeeping to another licence-holder for less than 30 days, the transfer does not need to be registered. Any longer term loans will need to be registered by the person handing over custody of the weapon.
Gun owners who fail to register their weapons in a timely manner face a fine of $10,000, even for unintentional breaches of the regulations. Deliberately failing to comply the rules can lead to fines of $20,000, or up to two years in prison. So, if in doubt, it will pay to seek advice.
The information held by the registry (ie. the firearms owned by a licence holder) will be accessible by the Police when carrying out their lawful duties.
Upon request, holders of firearms licences and dealer’s licences to view their own information and confirm/verify the licence, endorsement, and permit status of any person they are buying or selling firearms to. However, they will not be able to see what firearms are owned by the other party.
If in any doubt over your registration obligations, or if you have any questions at all related to firearms and the law, Holland Beckett Law’s wide-reaching practice – from criminal to civil, from city to country – allows us to provide the answers you need.