Clark v The Commissioner of Police [2018] NZDC 2990

Published 21 March 2019

Application to import firearms — military style semi-automatic weapons — special reason — firearms endorsements — Arms Act 1983, ss 5, 16, 18, 30, 62. The appellant appealed a decision by the Commissioner refusing to grant a permit to import 20 military style semi-automatic rifles (MSSAs) and 100 magazines into New Zealand. The appellant was a licensed firearms dealer and, along with her husband, owned a company which supplied licensed firearms dealers. The appellant sought a permit for the importation of the MSSA firearms in accordance with s 16 of the Arms Act 1983. However, s 18 of the Act requires the Commissioner to be satisfied that there are special reasons why the MSSA firearm should be allowed into New Zealand. The Commissioner refused the application on the basis that the reasons provided, that the appellant is a licensed dealer and requires the weapons for on-sale to other licensed dealers and E category firearms holders, were not "special reasons". The term "special reasons" is not defined in the Act. The Judge found that Parliament's legislative intent was that special reasons were required for the importation of MSSA weapons, and that that decision-making is discretionary. That is reinforced by s 18(2), which starts with a presumption against the importation of MSSA weapons, and the fact the decision-making authority for importation of MSSA weapons is vested in the Commissioner, as opposed to a lower level decision-maker found elsewhere in the Arms Act. Further the Judge found that requiring MSSA weapons for stock and on-sale is not special and that if dealers were to have special status under the Act, Parliament would have carved out an exemption for dealers in s 18(2). Simply accepting that licensed dealers should be allowed to import MSSA weapons would effectively circumvent the test as to whether MSSA weapons should be allowed in the country, and importantly, how many MSSA weapons should be allowed into the country. The Judge held that no special reasons were advanced by the appellant to justify the importation of 20 MSSA firearms into New Zealand and, therefore, the appeal was dismissed. Judgment Date: 21 February 2018.