Firearms Regulation, Prohibited Ammunition and the Common Law Right to Property

[2020] Public Law (Forthcoming)

3 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2020

See all articles by Dean R. Knight

Dean R. Knight

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: July 1, 2020


Case note on: New Zealand Council of Licensed Firearms Owners Inc v Minister of Police [2020] NZHC 1456.

The potential of the common law to rise to protect rights — and to protect property rights — was recently nodded to in a challenge to firearms restrictions enacted following the dreadful mosque shootings in Christchurch last year. Although the challenge was ultimately unsuccessful, the High Court took seriously the right to property and hinted at different ways the common law might have come to the aid of firearms’ owners, had the legislative mandate for restrictions not been so plain.

Within a month of the mosque shootings last year, Parliament passed the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Act 2019, prohibiting semi-automatic firearms, along with associated parts and ammunition; the definition of prohibited ammunition was left to an order in council. A buy-back regime was also implemented for the prohibited firearms and parts but not ammunition. The society, a consortium of various organisations with an interest in firearms, mounted a challenge to restrictions on.1 The society sought declarations that firearms’ owners had been deprived of their property without compensation and applied to invalidate the order in council defining the prohibited ammunition. But the society was unsuccessful. In short, while the treatment of ammunition might have been anomalous, the Amendment Act mandated the non-compensable restriction.

Keywords: New Zealand, common law rights, right to property, principle of legality, variable intensity

JEL Classification: K1; K30

Suggested Citation

Knight, Dean R., Firearms Regulation, Prohibited Ammunition and the Common Law Right to Property (July 1, 2020). [2020] Public Law (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN:

Dean R. Knight (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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