I'm asking this question because different sources say different things. The news media I've seen, visual, audio and text keep on running stories claiming that New Zealand has now banned semi-automatic rifles and implemented a buyback scheme. Other sources claim that the government has banned, specifically, what they call MSSA (Military Style Semi Automatic) rifles. Here is a rundown of what is an MSSA according to Wikipedia (hopefully this information isn't out of date). Any semi-automatic rifle or shotgun that features any of the following will be classified as an MSSA, and therefore is now banned (at least for the majority of New Zealand's citizens:

*A folding or telescopic butt
*A bayonet lug
*A military pattern free-standing pistol grip
*A flash suppressor
*A magazine that holds more than 7 rounds; magazines holding up to 10 rounds may be modified to carry 7 rounds. The limit on rimfire is 15 rounds per magazine.
*A detachable magazine that holds more than 10 rounds, excepting rimfire magazines, which may carry 15 rounds.

To quote Wikipedia (and again, I hope this information isn't out of date):

A Category firearms are those that do not fall into any other category, and are the vast majority of legally-owned firearms in New Zealand, and support a surprisingly wide number of types. For example semi-automatic AR-15 style rifles are permitted in this category provided they can only hold 7 or less rounds as well as meeting the other criteria.

However many media outlets have claimed that there's been an outright ban on semi-automatic rifles and shotguns, just as in this ABC article that claims:

New Zealand's Government has launched a multi-million-dollar, six-month buyback scheme to compensate owners of semi-automatic weapons, which were newly banned in the wake of deadly attacks on two mosques in Christchurch.


New Zealand previously allowed the sale of semi-automatics that were limited to seven shots.


The new ban bars the circulation and use of most semi-automatic firearms, parts that convert firearms into semi-automatic firearms, magazines over a certain capacity and some shotguns.

A very confusing article, first saying semi-automatics are banned, then saying specific types of semi-automatics are banned.

In the New Zealand Herald we have this article from April, which includes this diagram:

enter image description here

Basically meaning all semi-automatic rifles are banned except for .22 rimfire rifles if the magazine has a capacity of less than 5 or 10.

A little earlier in March we have this article headlined:

New Zealand bans military-style semi-automatic guns

Though such a ban would still allow guns like the semi-automatic AR-15 provided its magazine could hold no more than either 7 or 10 rounds.

I'm really confused about all this information which doesn't sound consistent among the sources.

Can anyone point me to a source explaining the actual new laws currently in force, or can someone explain them to me?

1 Answer 1


Part of your confusion may come from the fact that there were two separate actions.

On March 21, the government issued an Order in Council, Arms (Military Style Semi-automatic Firearms) Order 2019 (LI 2019/55), with the following short text:

For the purposes of the Arms Act 1983, the following firearms are declared to be military style semi-automatic firearms:

(a) a semi-automatic firearm that is capable of being used in combination with a detachable magazine (other than one designed to hold 0.22-inch or less rimfire cartridges) that is capable of holding more than 5 cartridges:

(b) a semi-automatic firearm that is a shotgun and that is capable of being used in combination with a detachable magazine that is capable of holding more than 5 cartridges.

You can read here the Arms Act 1983 as it stood on that date. The possession of a military-style semiautomatic firearm was forbidden under Section 20 of that act, unless one held a firearms license with a special military-style semiautomatic firearm endorsement. So the effect of the Order in Council was to forbid the possession of all semiautomatic firearms matching the Order's description, except by the (presumably few) people that had been granted the special license. As an Order in Council, this measure could be taken by the government directly without waiting for Parliament to act, and was apparently meant as a temporary stopgap.

On April 11, Parliament did pass legislation, the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019, whose (much longer) full text can be found at that link. I would rather not try to summarize the whole thing at this time, but one of its effects seems to have been to eliminate all references to "military-style semiautomatic firearms" from the law, and applying restrictions to a (presumably broader) class of "prohibited firearms". This act also revoked the previous Order in Council which was then no longer meaningful or needed.

  • 1
    In an article titled "Q&A: A closer look at New Zealand's new weapons ban" it shows a video of the prime minister saying "Today I am announcing that New Zealand will ban all military style semi automatics". Why would she say that if MSSAs were already banned by the 1983 Act? So what's the actual law? From what I read of the act all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns are prohibited (except for special license holders), except for .22 caliber rimfire or smaller, which are allowed to have a magazine (detachable or not) holding up to ten rounds.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 13:36
  • @Zebrafish: I clarified my answer. I should not have said that such weapons were "banned" by the 1983 act; rather, they were tightly restricted. I think I have pointed you to the text of the "actual law" in the links I gave, and I would encourage you to read it to better understand the situation, and to decide for yourself whether the PM's statement accurately described the relevant legislation. Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 0:56
  • @Zebrafish 1983 Act does not mean the ban was made in 1983. The initial version of the act passed in 1983. Then it was amended numerous times, including this year when the ban was introduced.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 1:40
  • In the new act amendment under "Persons who may apply to import, sell, supply, possess, or use prohibited items" it lists 7 categories of people who can apply to possess a "prohibited weapon", so the status quo after the new law changes are that MSSAs are restricted, just as they were before (though possibly to a more stringent level). The prime minister's words of "New Zealand will ban all military style semi automatic weapons" I don't think are informative at all, given that they were "tightly restricted" before and restricted now, but still possible to possess by some.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 2:13
  • Also her statement of "We will also ban all assault rifles" is completely irrelevant as "assault rifles" are banned for the general populace in most western countries, including America. Here she says "assault rifle" when she means "assault weapon" or "assault style rifle", which are different things. Thirdly the media reports saying that semi-automatics have been banned seem only partly true, given that .22 and smaller caliber semiautomatic rifles are still legal. So I'm pretty sure my confusion stems from the lack of accurate language used, including from New Zealand authorities/politicians.
    – Zebrafish
    Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 2:17

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