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Govt Confirms Plans To Expand Firearms Prohibition Orders

The government has confirmed its plans to allow police to search gang members, their vehicles and homes at any time using court orders.

The firearms prohibition orders will last five years before people can apply to have them cancelled.

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Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee, from the ACT Party, announced confirmation of the government's plans to expand the use of Firearms Prohibition Orders - as set out in the coalition's 100-day plan - at Wellington Police Station on Friday morning.

The orders - introduced by the previous Labour government in November 2022 - allow a court to ban certain people from using, accessing, or being around firearms - and make breaching those rules a criminal offence.

The orders currently can be applied to people convicted of offences which would disqualify them from holding a firearms licence, other serious violent offences, the Crimes Act offence of participating in an organised criminal group, or terrorism-related offences.

Breaching an FPO would make the offender liable for up to fivee years in prison, or seven years if the weapon was an illegal firearm.

The current settings impose FPOs for 10 years and they cannot be renewed unless the person commits another qualifying crime and the court considers it appropriate.

Associate Minister of Justice (Firearms) Nicole McKee speaks to media on 1 March 2024.

                                                                                         Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The newly proposed changes would allow a court to issue these to any member or associate of a gang that has been convicted of a significant offence, and would grant police new powers to search those people, their vehicles, and their homes at any time.

It would also change the regime to allow people who are subject to the orders to apply to the court for it to be changed or removed after five years.

"If someone can demonstrate that they no longer pose a risk to public safety, then they should be treated as such, but if they continue with their antisocial behaviour and put others in harm then it is in the public's interest to make sure they can't get their hands on more illegal firearms," McKee said.

"Firearms are being illegally used by gangs to intimidate, to commit violent crime in support of their profit making, and to initiate gang warfare that law-abiding citizens get stuck in the middle of. This can't be allowed to continue, this Government is going to take their illegally held firearms off them," she said.

"Keeping firearms out of the hands of gang members and high-risk offenders is needed to ensure public safety."

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