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COLFO says firearm owners likely to wait 5 years to register

Updated: Oct 22, 2023

23 June 2023

Media release

The Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO) says licensed firearm owners are likely to wait the full five years before registering their firearms, believing the system will be closed or limited as they have in other countries.

COLFO spokesperson Hugh Devereux-Mack says licensed firearm owners are free to make their own minds up about when to register their firearms but should be mindful of the ‘activation rules’ that can require an owner to register their firearms sooner.

“Licensed firearms owners have the full five years to register their firearms, and many are likely to put it off as long as possible.

“Some will be holding out for a new Government to repeal the registry; some will wait for the register to be revealed as ineffective, and others hold off out of spite.

“The five years is helpful, because for antique collectors, museums, and theatrical armourers, who all hold many firearms, registration will be an arduous process.

“However, COLFO advises licensed owners to be mindful that certain actions will require them to register their firearms sooner than they might have liked.

Licensed firearm owners will have 30 days to register all their firearms, if they:

• Apply for a license or endorsement

• Notify a change in license holder information

• Sell or supply an arms item

• Import or export an arms item

• Manufacture an arms item

• Modify a prohibited firearm to a non-prohibited firearm

• Notify loss or theft of an arms item

• Destroy an arms item

• From 24 June 2025: Purchase ammunition

Devereux-Mack says the conditions will likely cause some unintended consequences as people avoid registering.

“License holders may refrain from updating their addresses or contact details to avoid triggering the 30-day requirement to register, which will leave Police with even less accurate information than they had before the registry.

“People may not even report a stolen firearm to avoid the requirement to register others, which also leaves Police further in the dark about firearms possessed by criminals.

“From June 2025, firearm owners will be required to register their firearms if they purchase

ammunition. To avoid this, many will bulk-buy ammo over the next two years while they can avoid registration.”

Devereux-Mack says Police must state which measurements they will use to indicate success of the register, so its effectiveness can be judged after the first few years of implementation, not just after ten years.

“The Government and Police have made bold claims for the register, saying it will make New

Zealanders safer.

“Therefore it is reasonable that the measures for success would not be about outputs like the numbers of records, but impacts such as reduced firearm burglaries and firearm-related violence such as threatening and discharging, lower homicide and suicide rates, fewer seizures of illegally held firearms, and depowered gangs.

“Police must notify which combination of crime statistics it intends to use to measure success of the registry, so the public and news media can judge its efficacy and hold Police and Government to account.

“We must also expect of such critical information; accuracy of records at 100%, online uptime of 100%, and 0% leakage of data, or misuse of data.”


Note to the editor: If Police claim to you that licensed firearm owners are the main source of

firearms for criminals, they must provide the evidence to support it.

Police have stated that the registry is needed because the majority of firearms held by criminals are intentionally diverted by licensed firearm owners (also known as straw purchasing). According to available data, this is not true. Police have not supplied any new evidence to support the claim.

COLFO recently asked the Police for information on the number of seized firearms that have been traced to licensed firearm owners, after Police Association President Chris Cahill also claimed criminals sourced most of their firearms from licensed owners. Police said the request could not be fulfilled because they do not collect the data. Therefore, the Police do not have data to support what they are telling journalists. COLFO has complained to the ombudsman.

Historic material provided by Police in response to OIA requests shows that only one effort has been made to track the source of firearms seized from criminals. That was a study of seized firearms from a 6-month period in 2015, which found only 10% came from licensed owners either through burglary (4%) or sourced from individuals illegally (6%).

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