An update on the Arms Legislation Act 2020 in regards to shooting clubs and shooting ranges

Kerry has been involved on the advisory committee, focused on the changes the New Zealand Arms Act 20201 in regards to shooting clubs and shooting ranges. This regular, nationwide meeting is to primarily discuss the certification and registration of shooting ranges, and how this will be implemented.

We are aware that there is a bit of misinformation circulating online – or – more correctly, concern based around a lack of information that leads to rumour and speculative conclusions.

This post is to provide a quick update on what has been happening. It needs to be understood that the committee is an advisory board, and, it is still in early stages – provisions relating to the certification of clubs and ranges do not come into force until June 2022 and clubs and ranges have 12 months following that to apply for certification.

Details being developed

First, it needs to be understood that things are being developed at the moment and a little way from completion. So discussions around ‘this will happen’, ‘it’s going be cost-prohibitive’, ‘no ranges can comply’ are all way premature. We don’t know the associated costs, we are still working through the exact framework, so if someone claims to have some inside line on what is happening, please get them to get in touch with us, as I guess it could save us some work? More importantly, stop helping rumours spread, until more substantive information is available, and please, don’t revert to conspiracy as the first option.

Occams razor is a scientific and philosophical premise, that, in summary, suggests we rely on the most simple of explanations ‘keep it simple’ until solid evidence (evidence, not hearsay) proves otherwise.

From our involvement so far, all parties are genuinely working together on a workable solution. The reality is that the new Arms Act is coming into place. The Police are consulting with representatives from within the firearms community to ensure that the requirements are met while not creating an overly onerous process for the range owner/operator.

Our (GunSafe) main interest is in the smaller, private and commercial ranges – not necessarily affiliated with a club or specific shooting discipline – i.e. workplace or private use ranges. This includes the ranges pest control companies and rangers use to zero and train their staff, game estates and the smaller temporary and ad-hoc ranges.

Military Certification

One concern fielded multiple times is that all ranges regardless of size will be forced into adhering to military standard, full danger area ranges. For most (potentially all) ranges in New Zealand, this is an unrealistic standard, and this has been observed and acknowledged by the Police. On the flip side, running a range, of any size, needs to have a basic safety protocol and risk management in place. The aim is to create a framework that all range users can use, with individual disciplines and organisations’ ability to show how their (potentially existing) systems will meet the required standards of safety. This is similar to existing Worksafe requirements – where established ‘best standards’ provide the backbone for companies to show how their systems reach and cover ‘all reasonable steps’.

If a group doesn’t have anything in place, they will likely be held against a much higher default standard than if they had otherwise been put in place. What this really means, is you need to have at least a basic risk management plan in place, even if you are zeroing a rifle down the back of the farm – but – it also means that this may not mean a massive amount of documentation and ‘red-tape’ to jump through. Resources are being put together to make this process as simple as possible – as the intent (as we see it) is to get ranges involved with the process of ensuring they have minimum standards in place (and encouraging even better standards) rather than pushing people away through an onerous process.

Get started now!

Again, we have time to get things in place. While the details are still being formulated – some basic principles remain true.

At a bare minimum, we suggest you need in place:

Range Standing Orders

This is essentially your risk management plan. What is in place to ensure yourself and others’ safety while the range is in use. This is something you should have worked through before a single round goes downrange – be it an established, permanent set of targets, or putting something up at 100 meters to put a few rounds down to check your zero.

More than likely, you have already done this in your head. You need to get something down on paper to ‘formalise’ it. Again, it doesn’t need to be onerous. If you really are stuck, get in touch, and we can help you with the process.

Range Template

This doesn’t need to be a major either. Get a map – google maps being an option – mark where you are shooting from, mark where you are shooting to. Stop. Think. What is the likelihood if I miss, that this projectile will cause some mischief downrange? Are there houses downrange? Buildings? Stock? Do I have a decent backstop to stop any rounds that miss, or pass through the target?

Again, it’s a simple process. But an important one. We can help.

  1. Arms Legislation Act 2020