Christchurch terrorist attack aftermath: new gun reforms for New Zealand

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced last week that a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles would be in place by 11 April.

“In short, every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack on Friday will be banned in this country,” Ms Ardern announced.

In the aftermath of the Christchurch terrorist attack, attention has again been placed on Australia’s gun control laws.

Below is a brief outline of the legislation that has been proposed in NZ, as well as a summary of the gun control laws that we currently have in Australia.


The NZ reforms

While the legislation is being drafted, interim measures have been put in place to restrict the purchase of semi-automatic weapons.

On Thursday, Jacinda Ardern announced that no one in New Zealand would be able to purchase the weapons without a police permit, effective immediately.

However, “there is no point in applying for such a permit,” Ms Ardern added emphatically.

It is believed that legislation will be accompanied by a buy-back scheme, at a cost of between $NZ100 million and $NZ200 million ($AUS96 million to $AUS192 million).

Gun laws in Australia

Prior to 1996, gun laws varied significantly between Australian states and territories.

However, the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996 initiated a push to develop a national framework on gun control. This framework became the National Firearms Agreement.

Under the agreement, private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic firearms, self-loading shotguns and certain handguns are restricted.

Any person attempting to apply for a gun owner’s licence must demonstrate a “genuine reason” to own a firearm. Unlike in the US, a “genuine reason” in Australia does not include personal protection.

Applicants must also pass a comprehensive background check which considers:

  • Criminal history
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Addiction issues
  • Domestic violence history
  • History of residence

Depending on their licence category, a gun-owner is required to re-apply for their licence every 1-5 years.

Firearms legislation in NSW

In NSW, offences relating to firearms are outlined in the Firearms Act 1996 (NSW).

Some of the key sections of the Act are as follows:

Possession of a prohibited firearm – Section 7: A person must not possess or use a pistol or prohibited firearm unless the person is authorised to do so by a licence or permit. Maximum penalty – 14 years imprisonment.

The term ‘prohibited firearm’ is defined in Schedule 1 and includes machine guns, self-loading rifles etc.

Possession or use of firearms generally – Section 7A: A person must not possess or use a firearm unless the person is authorised to do so by a licence or permit. Maximum penalty – 5 years imprisonment.

Unregistered firearms – Section 36: A person must not supply, acquire, possess or use a firearm that is not registered. Maximum penalty – 14 years (if the weapon is a prohibited weapon) or 5 years (in any other case).

If you need advice or representation for a criminal matter please contact Hamilton Janke Lawyers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 4038 1666 (office hours) or 0422 050 502 (24/7).

Written By
James Janke
James Janke

James Janke is founding partner at Hamilton Janke Lawyers, and has more then decade of experience as a Criminal Defence Lawyer. Admitted to both the Supreme Court of New South Wales and High Court of Australia

Reviewed By
Drew Hamilton
Drew Hamilton

Drew Hamilton is founding partner at Hamilton Janke Lawyers. Admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales as a Solicitor and also listed on the High Court of Australia register.