New firearms laws and what they mean

In June 2020, the Arms Act was significantly amended. Some of the changes to the Arms Act will come into effect immediately. Others will come into force in six months - December 2020, some in 12 months (June 2021), some in two years (June 2022) and the final provisions – the registry – in three years.

The information below focuses primarily on the immediate changes; what you need to know today.

The later changes can be found on the other changes pages. As time progresses, the information on those pages will be updated to include more detail.


The immediate changes are:

  • A small group of firearms has been added to the definition of prohibited firearm, including:
  1. Short semi-automatic firearms (for example, because they have a short barrel or have a folding stock). This prohibition does not apply to collectors, curators of museums or employees of film companies. “Small semi-automatic pistols” are excluded so that pistols commonly used for target pistol shooting disciplines are not prohibited; and
  2. Centrefire pump-action rifles which are capable of being used with a detachable magazine or that have 1 or more non-detachable magazines capable of holding more than 10 cartridges.
  3. Any firearm containing a centrefire lower receiver that is capable of functioning.
  • The duration of a firearms licence for first-time firearms licence applicants will be for five years, rather than 10 years. This will also be the case if you are applying after your previously held licence expires, or is revoked or surrendered. Otherwise the duration of a firearms licence remains at 10 years.
  • Endorsements granted for controlling wild animal or animal pests will have a changed duration and will need to be renewed before the firearms licence does.
  • Requiring an endorsed firearms or dealer’s licence enabling the person to possess a pistol in order to lawfully possess a pistol carbine conversion kit (which converts a pistol into a shoulder-fired firearm).
  • Additional regulation-making powers have been included to enable the Governor General to make regulations specifying the security requirements for pistol carbine conversion kits, and for ammunition sellers.
  • Import permits will now be required to import ammunition, pistol carbine conversion kits, air pistol carbine conversion kits and all blank-firing firearms.
  • Changes to the penalties for many offences, eg the penalty for possessing a non-prohibited firearm without a firearms licence is now up to 1 year imprisonment or a fine up to $15,000.
  • A Minister’s arms advisory group to be established with members from the firearm-owning and non-firearm-owning community.
  • Those who come to New Zealand who are issued a licence for up to a year (a ‘Visitors’ licence) will no longer be able to purchase firearms for possession or use in New Zealand. Those with a ‘Visitors’ licence can import their own firearm, lease, hire or borrow a firearm, or purchase a firearm for immediate export.