Firearms licence (New Zealand)

A New Zealand firearms licence is personal to the licence holder and is issued by New Zealand Police to people aged over 16 who are considered to be fit and proper to possess firearms. Endorsements on the licence identify which categories of firearms a licence holder can lawfully possess.

Firearms licence holders can lawfully only procure and own the categories of firearms their licence carries endorsements for. Rifles, shotguns, and airguns can be lawfully owned by anyone who holds a standard, or A-Category, firearms licence and do not need to be registered. However some firearms, such as pistols and military style semi-automatic firearms also need a Police permit to procure each specific firearm and these arms need to be registered with Police.

An applicant for a firearms licence needs to be aged 16 years or older until September 20th then they need to be 18, attend an approved firearms safety course, pass theoretical and practical examinations about firearms safety and use, have adequate secure storage for firearms, complete the application form, supply suitable identification, provide two referees and pay the prescribed application fees for the licence and any endorsements.

The statutory basis for licensing of firearms use in New Zealand is laid out in the Arms Act and Arms Regulations.[1] The act is administered by the New Zealand Police, according to policies documented in their Arms Manual 2002.[2]

Applying for a firearms licence

In New Zealand, possession of firearms is considered a privilege, rather than a right.[3][4][5]

Before applying for a firearms licence, the applicant must:

  • Be 16 or older;
  • Be a "fit and proper person" to possess and use firearms;
  • Attend a safety lecture given by a trainer from the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council or other approved training organisation;
  • Pass a written test based on the material in the Arms Code,[6] a booklet compiled jointly by the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council and the Police;
  • Have secure storage for firearms at the applicant's home (a gun rack, safe, strongroom or "receptacle of stout construction" is required);
  • Provide two referees, one a relative and one not, to vouch for the applicant;
  • Supply 2 identical photographs of the applicant that meet specified requirements (passport standard);
  • Pay NZ$126.50 at a local PostShop.[7]

Before being issued with a firearms licence:

  • A police arms officer will interview the applicant, and their referees;
  • A police arms officer inspect the security at the applicant's home, or other designated storage address;

Licences are issued at the discretion of the police. Licences are issued for a period of 10 years. Licences can be refused or revoked if Police believe that the applicant or licence holder is not, or ceases to be, a "fit and proper person". The licensing fee is not refundable if the licence is refused or revoked.

If a person already holds a firearms licence they must apply for a new licence well before their old licence expires as the licensing process can take several months. If their old licence expires before a new licence is issued then any firearms that are owned need to be surrendered or transferred to a licensed firearms owner. If their old licence expires before a new licence is applied for then a higher fee needs to be paid.

The "fit and proper person" test

As part of the application for a licence, the police will assess whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to possess firearms. An applicant could be considered not fit and proper if he/she:

  • has been the subject of a protection order;
  • has shown no regard for the Arms Act or Arms Regulations;
  • has been involved in substance abuse;
  • has committed any serious offence, or any crimes involving violence or drugs;
  • has committed a series of minor offences (or a serious offence) against the Arms Act;
  • has been affiliated with a gang involved in violence;
  • has been involved in acts or threats of matrimonial violence;
  • has exhibited signs of mental ill health;
  • has attempted to commit suicide or other self injurious behaviour[2]

Additionally, self-defense is not a considered valid reason to possess firearms in New Zealand.[8]

There are exemptions from the need for a licence for police, military and related occupations and for the use of firearms when closely supervised by licence-holders. In addition certain types of firearms - such as humane killers, tranquilizer guns, flare pistols, antiques - may be used and possessed without a licence.

General licence

The "general" (or "type A") licence gives permission to own and use "sporting configuration" firearms. A sporting configuration firearm is a rifle or shotgun that does not meet the legal definition of any of a Military-Style Semi-Automatic (MSSA), "Restricted Weapon" or "pistol". Sporting configuration firearms are not individually registered, and licence-holders may own as many as they wish and buy or sell them freely from/to other licence-holders or dealers.


Under certain circumstances, a licence may carry endorsements to allow the possession and use of other types of weapons, as follows:

Endorsement Use
B Allows the holder to possess and use pistols. Issued only to bona fide members of pistol clubs. Weapons held under a "B" endorsement may only be fired at an approved pistol range, and are subject to strict controls on carriage away from the owner's home.
C Allows the holder to possess and use pistols and restricted weapons. Issued only to bona fide collectors, to people for whom a particular weapon has a special significance (e.g. as an heirloom), to museum curators, and to theatre, film and TV production armourers. Weapons held under a "C" endorsement may not be fired with live ammunition, though blanks may be fired for film, TV and theatre purposes.
E Allows the holder to possess and use MSSAs. Issued only to applicants showing a genuine reason for needing to use an MSSA - such as professional hunting, or participation in service-rifle or IPSC 3-gun competitions. This category was made obsolete on 12 April 2019 and replaced with a more restrictive permit to possess prohibited items.[9]
D, F Special endorsements for firearms dealers.

Endorsements are issued only after further police vetting, and a higher standard of firearm storage security is required. Each application for an endorsement costs NZ$200.[7]

Weapons other than sporting-configuration rifles and shotguns must be individually registered, and transfer of possession is subject to prior approval by the police.


Visitors to New Zealand may be issued a temporary visitor's licence. "B" or "E" endorsements may be included on the licence when appropriate (e.g. an overseas competitor in a pistol shooting competition).

See also


  1. Arms Regulations 1992(SR 1992/346)
  2. "Arms Manual 2002". New Zealand Police. 2014. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  3. Police v Corby (District Court Lower Hutt (MA 194/81) 5 June 1981)
  4. Giles v O’Fee (District Court Wellington (MA 309/88) 29 August 1989)
  5. New Zealand Police (November 2002). "2.1: Firearms Licences: Introduction". New Zealand Police Arms Manual (PDF). Wellington, New Zealand. p. 9.
  6. Arms Code (~2004) Archived 2007-06-24 at the Wayback Machine
  7. New Zealand Firearm Safety and Licences
  8. New Zealand Police (2013) [Rewrite of 2007]. "Section 4: Firearms Licensing". Arms Code (PDF). Wellington, New Zealand. p. 41. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  9. New Zealand Police Firearms Licensing Retrieved 19 September 2019. Missing or empty |title= (help)
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