Approximately two hundred thirty
thousand owners of licensed firearms possess and use
an estimated one million firearms in New Zealand.
Unlike in Canada and the United States, but as in
Australia, gun laws frequently win the support of
all major parties prior to being passed.
guns were not a major political issue, but had
become so immediately following the 1990 Aramoana
massacre, and the 1996 Australian Port Arthur and
Scottish Dunblane massacres.
Several different government officials, groups which
spearheaded the Thorp Report, and the police of New
Zealand have lobbied for several kinds of universal
registration for firearms.
Currently, these endeavors have not as yet succeeded but
some machinations by New Zealand’s Police are trying to
re-classify several 'A' level firearms as 'E' level firearms
or MSSA (Military Style Semi-Automatics)
and therefore they must be registered.
This has been accomplished even though they admit that the
New Zealand Police cannot consistently register today’s MSSA
Gun laws in New Zealand are conspicuously more tolerant than
other Pacific countries, mainly focusing on testing firearm
owners, instead of focusing on the registration of firearms
or outlawing certain kinds of firearms. The Arms Act
provides the legislation that governs firearms even though
more strict and unofficial police and government policies
are also in force.
Anyone purchasing firearms or ammo, whether from a
dealer or private transaction, must provide their
Additionally, a permit to purchase
must be taken out before transactions are completed
for pistols, MSSA’s, and controlled weapons.
order purchases are allowed, but a signature from a
police officer is required in order to verify that
the buyer has a firearms license.
Firearms were first introduced in New Zealand by
European settlers, and were used for trade with
several native Maori. This partly led to the Musket
Wars of the early nineteenth century.
In 1845, the first laws on gun control were enacted, but
pioneer regulations were unsuccessful until the 1860 Arms
Act was passed, which mandated the registration of firearms,
and licenses to posses for both purchasers and firearms
Early gun laws in New Zealand were mainly focused on
the Maori during the land disputes in Taranaki and
Waikato, and in the end 1880s were mostly suspended.
Gun laws were un-enforced and ignored around 1910 as
crime and the possibility of political unrest were
1912-1913 strikes, a Russian Communist revolution,
and great numbers of guns which were ex-military
entering the country after WWI led to the government
passing a new gun law in 1920.
It mandated the
registration of each and every existing firearm and
the issuance of a procurement permit before a
firearm was purchased.
In the 1970s and 1980s, several new gun laws were passed,
recommending more checks by the government, the registration
of shotguns and private licensing.
A 1982 internal report conducted by the police criticized
the proposals, stating that there was no proof that
registration helped lessen crimes, and that it was a waste
of money and time to process registrations; that the funds
would be better spent on other police efforts.