The Government has decided to require owners of high-powered airguns to have a firearms licence.
The change would require a licence for pre-charged pneumatic air guns, but not for older-style spring loaded airguns or air guns powered by carbon dioxide cartridges, BB guns or paintball guns.
The move follows the fatal airgun shootings of undercover officer Sergeant Don Wilkinson in 2008 and Auckland man Keith Kahi earlier this month.
Police Minister Judith Collins says projectiles from pre-charged pneumatic air guns travel almost as fast as a bullet and have similar killing power, and it is common sense to require a licence for them.
"These are weapons that have no relationship to the old BB guns, these are very high-powered weapons that are now becoming the weapon of choice for criminals."
An amendment was likely to be made to the Arms (Restricted Weapons and Specially Dangerous Airguns) Order 1984 rather than the Arms Act, she says, as this is quicker and may result in the measure being implemented in about three months.
While formal Cabinet approval is needed for the move, Ms Collins says this is expected to happen.
Police Association welcomes move
Police Association president Greg O'Connor says the government's move to licence high powered air rifles is welcome and long overdue.
He says it's a very logical change which has languished in an amendment bill since 2005.
Mr O'Connor says it's unfortunate that it's taken two people to be killed, one of them a police officer, for something to be done.