Why would you want a Firearms Licence?
I have learnt, over a few years, that the reasons for new shooters to get licences are as varied as the owners themselves. People from all age groups, races, religions, social economic groups and more own and use firearms regularly.
However, there are three core (and one extra) reasons people decide to undertake the path to responsible firearms ownership.
Certainly, for the majority of firearms licences issues in New Zealand, the main reason is to purchase and use a firearm as a tool for the hunting of animals. Though, the actual reason people hunt is varied and wide and includes…
- Tradition – there are more than a few third or fourth generation hunters in NZ
- Economics – for some, if they don’t hunt their meat, there isn’t meat to be had.
- Traceability – a modern drive towards, sustainable, organic meat harvest
- Fun – it’s a reason to get outdoors, to explore the bush and come back with something
There is a healthy, and growing sports shooting community in NZ as well. Many disciplines are small enough that you may not be aware of them – but just do a little digging, and you find something that appeals.
I personally got into the path of firearms ownership via hunting, but quickly diverted into competitive pistol shooting for a couple of years before returning back to the long-guns (rifles) and headed into long-range field shooting competition.
There is also a large community of both antique and modern firearms collectors in New Zealand. This is probably the most controlled class of firearms ownership, with very strict controls in regards to traceability and security. But, if you are driven to build a collection of pre-WWII personal sidearms from a specific region in the world, for example, you can do it in New Zealand.
And, of course, plenty of people just enjoy owning and shooting firearms. It’s a great hobby, that anyone (anyone fit and proper to do so) can get into easily.
Who needs a firearms licence?
Anyone who wants to legally own and use (without supervision) firearms in New Zealand needs to have a Firearms Licence. Unlike some other places in the world, New Zealand licences its population to own a firearm. Once deemed fit and proper, we can go out and purchase firearms as we like. With some exceptions (some firearms require additional endorsements) most firearms are owned through this process.
If you just want to try out shooting a gun – you may not need a licence. Anyone can use an A category (refer further down) firearm without a licence if they are under the direct supervision of a licence holder. Anyone can also shoot pistols (B Category) on an approved pistol range, again, under the direct supervision of a licence holder.
If you are interested in checking out and maybe even shooting a gun – I strongly suggest you get in touch with a local club (check out our resource list here) – most are more than willing to get you out and have a go. If you are in Auckland – get in touch with me1 as I am more than happy to help facilitate interested parties in having a go.
It should be noted that airguns are covered under firearms law – there are age restrictions that require a licenced holder, and not everything can be owned. I don’t claim to know all the details – I would suggest you consult with the Police or your local airsoft/paintball/airgun club on that one.
Who can get a firearms licence?
Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for their New Zealand firearms licence.
Visitors to New Zealand, who are planning on staying less than a year, are recommended to instead apply for a visitors licence.
In July/August 2018, the process of applying and obtaining a New Zealand Firearms Licence changed. Until then, there had never been a practical component of the licence testing. Now, it is a combination of a theory test (understanding the law) and a practical course (showing basic firearms handling competency).
Essentially though, when you apply for a licence, you will be assessed for your suitability to own and use firearms. It’s a big responsibility. As I often say to people, firearms owners are some of the few people in New Zealand that have officially been recognised as ‘fit and proper people’ by the New Zealand Police and Government.
Download and Pay for the licence
You are reading this on the internet, so, it’s not a far stretch to suggest you can also download the form from here, print it, and fill it in. Then you need to pop into a PostShop, pay the licensing fee and get a receipt. The cost of a new licence is $126.50, with endorsements being another $204.
Get some passport photos, drop in the application
The photos have the same requirements as a passport – many chemists will be able to help you out here. You need two of them. Then, take the application form, the receipt of payment, the two photos and pop into your local police station. You will also need three forms of ID (passport, birth certificate, driver licence, photo ID, credit card/bank card) at least one of which will need to have a photo of you on it.
The background check
The police will undergo a background check to ascertain if you have any major issues or history that may preclude you from having a firearms licence. Once this is done, they will send you a letter to let you know all is well and its time to go through the Firearms Safety Program.
The Firearms Safety Program
This is where the new system diverts from the previous. There are two parts. A theory test and a new practical assessment.
The Theory Test
Download, or get a copy of the New Zealand Arms Code from your local police station. Study it, learn it, memorise it. While to be blunt, you won’t need to retain all of its contents – the theory test is a test of your understanding and comprehension of that document. Then, pop over and go through an online quiz to see how you are getting on.
Also – now is a really good time to mention these as well…
The Seven Rules of Firearms Safety
- Treat every firearm as loaded
- Always point firearms in a safe direction
- Load a firearm only when ready to fire
- Identify your target beyond all doubt
- Check your firing zone
- Store firearms and ammunition safely
- Avoid alcohol or drugs when handling firearms
- You cant pre-book
- Take your letter of approval from the police and suitable ID
- You will have 30 minutes to get 28 or 30 questions right
Assuming you pass, you will receive a ‘test pass certificate’ – if you don’t – you have a month standdown period (go study that Arms Code again) and then you can resit – fail again, and its time for a chat with the Police to ascertain what the issue might be.
Once you have this done, you can now book into the practical training.
Firearms Practical Training
The firearms practical training course is a two-hour session delivered by firearms instructors from the Mountain Safety Council3 at venues across NZ.
The point of this training is to give you some hands-on time with firearms, and an opportunity to learn and practise the basic, core safety principles in regards to handling firearms.
Once you have passed the theory test, you can pop online to book your course – it’s a fairly straightforward process – but feel free to get in touch if you have any issues.
When you turn up (be on time!) you will need to bring:
- Your letter from the NZ Police saying you can undertake the Firearms Safety Program
- Your firearms theory test pass document
- Proof of identity such as a drivers license or passport (something with photo ID ideally)
- DONT – bring any firearms or ammo (for a start, you don’t have a firearms licence, and disabled firearms are provided)
The course will take approximately two hours and cover off:
- Safety precautions and general handling skills with different types of firearms
- Safe carriage of firearms, including checking the firearm is safe and placing or removing it from a rifle carry bag, transit case or a vehicle
- States of readiness (load, action, instant, unload)
- There is no live firing of firearms in this course.
Nearly there! Now for the interview.
The final step in the process is the interview with a Police Arms Officer. At this time, they will also check your security measures are in place.
Remember, don’t panic. The person that comes out to see you will be just that. A person, a fellow human being. Treat them as such. They have likely heard every answer that anyone could come up with already. It’s their job to ascertain your suitability to own and shoot firearms. They are nice folk, doing there job. Offer them a cup of tea or coffee, make them comfortable, and you will have no issues. Go into it defensively, and don’t be surprised if you get an equal reaction.
A lot can be said about Gun Security – and it’s important to recognise New Zealand has some of the best requirements in the world. However, can I please request you go above and beyond – and don’t just do enough to scrape through. If you have to ask ‘is it enough’ – then it probably should be better. Just IMHO, of course.
After you get your licence
This should just be the beginning of your journey into firearms training and education. By that, I mean, you should seriously consider getting in touch with a local club or organisation and go and learn more from experienced people. Even if you have already handled firearms (in another country, growing up, in the military) – there is plenty to gain and understand about the local culture by joining a club.
Endorsements (pistols, MSSAs, collectors, dealers)
I personally, currently have my A, B, D, E licences. I may end up with an F, but don’t think I will get a C. Despite kinda wanting to just so I can claim the whole alphabet. But, what do they actually mean?
- Pistols (B endorsement) – yes, you can own and shooting handguns in NZ
- A collection of pistols or restricted weapons (C Collectors or Museum endorsement)
- Pistols or restricted weapons for performing a play/film/re-enactment (C Theatrical endorsement) – you know all the guns they have in movies?
- Dealers Licence – the ability to buy and sell firearms for commercial gain (D Licence )
- Military-style semi-automatic rifles or shotguns (E endorsement)
- Pistols or restricted weapons for hire or sale (F endorsement – dealers)
I would suggest, just focus on your A initially – it’s a separate process for the endorsements – and while I do encourage people to get into competition shooting – let’s take it one thing at a time aye.
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It just starts with the gear!
We also have a range of training courses available. Learn how to set up that new rifle, use a rear bag properly, calculate a ballistic solution and wrap it all around proper fundamentals.