Questions from GPs about Firearms Act

Questions from College members to NZ Police about the Firearms Act.

  • What if people are not enrolled with a GP?

    Having a Health Practitioner is a mandatory requirement for any licence application. An application cannot be progressed until the applicant can provide these details. Where this issue arises, we work through it with the licence applicant. There are three likely outcomes: the applicant will provide the health practitioner details; or the application will be withdrawn by the applicant; or we will refuse the application.

  • 240,000 are firearm holders? How is that five percent of population?

    The percentage presented was reflective of the 2018 census data. We will update our presentation based on the Stats NZ data from 31 December 2021 that has the population estimated as 5,122,300.

  • Often to assess a patient we require a sit-down consultation to make an assessment... how can we give a professional opinion without doing this?

    S92 of the Act talks about ‘concern’ rather than a medical opinion based on a consultation. We do not require you to conduct a formal assessment before relaying anything to us.

  • I'm concerned about the group of people who have malignant narcissism, sociopathy, or psychopathy as most are undiagnosed as they have not seen any psychiatrist. But as a GP we may have a good idea if the patient has narcissistic traits and behavioural patterns possibly of cluster b personality. This will be tricky. This group may have a higher domestic violence possibility. How do we sort this group out if requesting firearms licence?

    The decision on whether such people are fit and proper to hold a firearms licence sits with us. We will look at the whole picture. We conduct several enquires that can check these sorts of concern, including our intelligence data bases, what we learn from next of kin, and unrelated referees. Any health practitioner for their part could notify us if they had a concern in this area, but the ultimate responsibility to act rests with us.

  • Why don’t Police/Te Tari Pūreke go to the health provider prior?

    This was considered by the Select Committee 2020. The decision was that only after a license was issued would the health professional be advised that the person now held a firearms license. This is now set within the Arms Act.

    In mid-2026 an 18-month review of all changes to the Arms Act takes place and a report back to Parliament is due in 2028. This will be our collective opportunity to raise issues and present options for adjustment or change into the Arms Act.

  • The fact that the licence is granted BEFORE a medical report is a major design flaw, the report should be required before, because if the person is deemed unfit, they become angry that the licence has now been revoked and blame the GP.

    This was considered by the Select Committee 2020. The decision was that only after a licence was issued would the health provide be advised that the person now held a firearms licence. This is now set within the Arms Act.

    The opportunity with health practitioners now being aware that the person is the holder of a firearms licence (initially on notification or in subsequent months/years) is that if there are concerns about the person’s suitability to possess a firearm there is an intervention opportunity.

  • A second flaw in the legislation is that the person may nominate a GP in a group practice that they have rarely consulted because they feel that GP may be more sympathetic or not fully aware of the extent of a person’s psychiatric issues. Can a “nominated” GP refuse to complete a report on the grounds that the person is not well known to them?

    A health practitioner report is not mandatory for obtaining a firearms licence. In any case where a group practice might need to raise a concern or provide some sort of report or opinion, it would be over to the cohort of health practitioners themselves to work through who would do this. We would encourage reporting where there are individual or collective concerns about a person’s psychiatric condition.

  • I have been asked to provide information about the mental health history of family members of a patient applying for a firearms license. What are my obligations and how much information am I require to provide?

    There is nothing in the Act that states you must provide information about the Mental Health history of family members. The obligations and considerations centre on the applicant only.

    For general awareness. As part of the licence application process we do look at family members who live with the licence applicant to understand if there are any risks we need to consider. An example could be a teenager in the applicant’s home has suicidal tendencies. Once we know this we are likely to issue the licence with a condition that firearms are not kept in the home to reduce the risk of the teenager accessing them and harming themselves or others.

  • Similar to motor vehicle license, is there a protocol to regularly renew firearm licensee?

    A New Zealand firearms licence lasts five or 10 years, depending on the circumstances of the application.

    A new license lasts 10 years if a person has a current license and applies to renew their license before their current license expires.

    A Firearms licence lasts five years if:

    • the firearms licence expires before applying for a new one
    • the previous firearms licence was revoked or surrendered
    • you’ve never had a firearms licence

    When applying for a licence, whether it be a first-time application or an application from someone with a previous or current license, people are subject to the entire license application process.

  • If someone surrenders their licence, can they get it back? E.g. if they were feeling depressed but then got better?

    Yes, they can get it back. We have several recent cases where we worked with a licence holder and their Health Practitioner to work through concerns this way.

    It's a preferable option to the suspension and revocation path.

    Therefore, we would encourage you to have the conversation with the licence holder and in the right circumstances surrender their licence until the health condition is resolved/managed. Once resolved/managed we would welcome a new firearms licence application with an accompanying letter advising of the health condition and status.

Notification / GP safety

  • A considerable number of patients have background of depression, anxiety, ADHD and are on medications for these conditions, do we have to notify police about this?

    If there are no current concerns for a person’s safety, and the condition is well managed, you do not need to notify us.

  • We're currently receiving notifications of firearms holders from police outside the context of a consultation... do we bring them in for a consultation?

    You're not required to bring patients in for a consultation but you may want to consider entering the firearms licence into the long-term classifications and checking in on patients when they come in for their prescriptions.

    One of our attendees on the webinar wrote “Personally, when I receive notification from the police about firearms issuance, I call the patient and ask them relevant questions about their health - mental and physical. Patients have been happy with the phone call, especially if patient has not been seen recently.

  • If the patient does not permit to notify, what should we do?

    Under S92 of the Act you do not need a patient’s permission to notify us if you have a concern. There is a good faith provision under S92(5) of the Act. There is also no requirement to tell the patient that you have made a notification to us.

  • Are we obligated to inform the patient that we are making a notification to the regulatory body? Also is the patient informed about our notification or does the source of the notification remain anonymous?

    Under S92 of the Act you do not need a patient’s permission to notify us if you have a concern. There is a good faith provision under S92(5) of the Act. Eventually the patient is entitled to know and test the grounds on which we are revoking a licence.

  • What about consent if a patient specifically tells their doctor they do not want their condition to affect their holding onto their license? It could affect the doctor/patient relationship long term.

    It's critical for public safety that only fit and proper people hold firearms licences. Once a report is received, we will look at our own information and intelligence holdings before making preliminary decisions.

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Firearms (Arms Act 1983)

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Firearms (Arms Act 1983)

Recording: Health practitioners and the Arms Act what it means for you

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A recording of a webinar held on Tuesday 6 December where the College and Police presented on the changes to the Arms Act and what it means for health practitioners.

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