Understanding ACT’s Proposed Gun Policy

Understanding ACT’s Proposed Gun Policy

By Isabella Ranum

ACT has recently made headlines after releasing its proposal for a new gun policy if they come into government and what consequences this will have.[1]

The ACT party believes the Arms Legislation Act 2020 and Arms Amendment Act 2019 have ‘done nothing to keep people safe and prevent another tragedy’ (referring to the 2019 Christchurch Mosque shootings).[2]  ACT believes these pieces of legislation treat New Zealanders who use guns legally (as tools, sport, sourcing food etc.), unfairly.[3] 

What does ACT’s new gun policy propose?

The main aspects of ACT’s gun policy proposal are; repealing parts of the Arms Legislation Act 2020, introducing a replacement bill for the Arms Act 1983 (and subsequent amendments) and introducing a new policy to the Criminal Proceeds (recovery) Act.[4]  These changes aim to make it easier for police to affect gangs detrimentally.[5]

The Criminal Proceeds (recovery) Act determines the process for the restraint and confiscation of property derived from criminal activity.[6]  ACT proposes that if the police, while conducting a lawful property search, find three elements satisfied, the Crown can apply for a Court order to seize the assets of that operation.[7]  These elements are; an illegal operation, unlawful possession of a firearm and a person gang affiliated (as defined by the National gang List).[8]  ACT’s policy would quash the requirement on the Crown to establish a connection between purchasing of those assets and illicit financial ones, prior to seizure.[9]  Consequently this policy change would modify the meaning of significant criminal activity under the Act.[10]  Likewise, the new policy would also increase the scope of the Act’s purpose (primarily to establish a regime for the forfeiture of property) and interpretation.[11] ACT justifies this new policy under the belief that unlawful firearms protect gang operations and are directly linked to illicit financial gain.[12]  Therefore, this proposed legislation change aims to be financially detrimental to gangs.

However, the most contentious aspect of ACT’s proposed gun policy is repealing the gun registry which is effective June 24th, 2023.[13]  This has one exception – a registry will remain for pistols.[14]

What is the gun registry?

The gun registry comes into force June 24th 2023 due to the Arms Amendment Regulations 2023.[15]  Firearm license holders will have up to five years to record all firearms and relevant arm items in their possession into the new online register – MyFirearms Portal.[16]  This portal will be available on the Te Tari Purkeke – Firearms Safety Authority website and will have no registration fee.[17]  There are some exceptions to this five-year timeframe – notably, when a license holder purchases a firearm, they will have to register it and all other arms items in their possession within 30 days.[18]

The government believes this gun registry will allow police to track stolen arms more quickly, improving community safety.[19]  Furthermore this registry will allow easier identification of small community groups possessing illegal firearms. [20]

Why does ACT want to repeal the gun registry?

Nicole McKee, ACT‘s firearms spokeswomen, released a press release on May 12th 2023, highlighting why ACT opposes the gun registry.[21]  She stated the registry will not change the number of illegal guns in the community, claiming responsible firearms owners will be forced to comply while gang members “carry on their merry way and ignore it.”[22]  The spokeswomen noted that the current digital registration system also has errors, but did not disclose what these are.[23]  McKee also claimed that upon a registry leak, it would become a steal-to-order list for gangs.[24]  Consequently, ACT asks the government to repeal the registry.  ACT has stated they will repeal full registration of firearms, parts, and ammunition if they come into government.[25]

Opposition to ACT’s proposed gun policy

On May 15th 2023, Police Association president Chris Cahill appeared on Breakfast to voice opposition to ACTs proposed gun policy.[26] He stated the registry is “an incredibly important move” and explained that he could currently buy multiple firearms and on-sell them discretely, leaving himself unaccountable.[27] Cahill stated he was incredibly disappointed with ACT’s view and refuted ACT’s claim that criminals would ignore the registry, stating it would prevent licensed firearm owners from providing arms to criminals.[28] He noted ACT will retain a registry for pistols and restricted weapons, stating, “if you believe it will work for those, why won’t it work for all weapons?”[29]

Gun Control NZ also slammed ACT with co-founder Philippa Yasbek stating David Seymour “inhabits the gun lobby’s fact-free echo chamber.”[30]  The organization’s other co-founder Nik Green reiterated the gun registry will aid police in mitigating crimes and preventing strawman purchases.[31]  Strawman purchases are when a person (acting as the real buying) purchases a gun for another person.

ACT party’s response

In response to Cahills comments, ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden repeated on Breakfast the gun registry won’t stop crime and New Zealand must go “after the gangs and illegal firearm activity.”[32]

What have other parties said about ACTs view and the gun registry?

The National Party has previously been unclear on whether they support the gun registry. However, Mark Mitchell (National’s police spokesman) informed the Herald that the party did support the registry.[33] He noted that if National was in government, they would assess if the investment (an estimated $208m) was worthwhile, whether it adequately protected arms owner’s privacy, and if it effectively limits illegal guns in the community.[34]  The spokesman would not comment on ACT’s proposed gun policy, or how the issue would be dealt with if the two parties formed a government post-election.[35]

Contrarily, Green party MP Chloe Swarbrick voiced support for the registry.[36]


ACT’s proposed arms policy is highly contentious.  The consequences of the gun registry are unknown, and it is unclear if it will affect illegal arms purchases and crime rates.  If the register has little effect on illegal arms crimes, the possibility of repeal and introduction of extreme measures like those proposed under ACT’s gun policy, may be likely.

[1] ACT “The world’s best firearms laws” Act.org.nz (NZ, 2023); James Halpin “ACT gun policy is an ‘attack’ on Kiwis safety, police union says” Stuff.co.nz (NZ, 13 May 2023).

[2] Arms Legislation Act 2020; Arms Amendment Act 2019; above n 1.

[3] Above n 1.

[4] Arms Legislation Act 2020; Arms Act 1983; Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009.

[5] Above n 1.

[6] Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009, s 4(1)(a).

[7] Above n 1.

[8] Above n 1.

[9] Above n 6, s 6.

[10] Above n 6, s 6.

[11] Above n 6, s 3(1) and s 5.

[12] Above n 1.

[13] Arms Amendment Regulations 2023.

[14] 1news “’Rubbish’ – Police Assn president slams ACT Party’s gun policy” 1news (online ed, NZ, 15 May 2023).

[15] Above n 13.

[16] Hon Ginny Anderson “Milestone reached in the delivery of new Firearms Registry” Beehive.govt.nz (NZ, 11 May 2023).

[17] Above n 16.

[18] Above n 16.

[19] Above n 16.

[20] Above n 16.

[21] Nicole McKee “ACT will repeal $208m firearms register” Act.org.nz (NZ, 12 May 2023).

[22] Above n 21.

[23] Above n 21.

[24] Above n 21.

[25] Above n 21.

[26] Above n 14.

[27] Above n 14.

[28] Above n 14.

[29] Above n 14.

[30] Gun Control NZ “Gun Control NZ Slams ACT Party For Wanting To Dismantle An Important Crime-fighting Tool” Scoop Politics (NZ, 16 May 2023).

[31] Above n 30.

[32] Above n 14.

[33] Adam Pearse “Election 2023: National, Act disagree on firearms guns register” NZHerald (NZ, 15 May 2023).

[34] Above n 33.

[35] Above n 33.

[36] Above n 14.

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