Safe firearm storage and display

It’s critical to ensure firearms are stored and displayed appropriately to meet newly updated firearms licensing requirements, and to ensure the safety of staff, volunteers and visitors to your museum.

To help museums meet these licensing requirements, guidance has been provided by the Police which focuses on secure storage and display of firearms. These include specifications for fixing display cabinets to the premises, having a lockable firearms rack and requirements for firearms to be made inoperable, by removing bolts and firing pins.

The Police advise any parts of a firearm that have been removed, along with any live ammunition, should be kept in a separate secure store, preferably at a different location to your main firearms storage.

Read the New Zealand Police Secure Storage Guidance for Firearms publication Secure Storage Guidance for Firearms

The guidance provides a starting point for requirements of storing firearms, and, in consultation with your local firearms officer, can be adapted to meet the needs of your display or storage situation.

Visitors explore the Gallipoli exhibition. Photo credit Norm Heke, Te Papa

Displaying firearms at Te Papa

Firearms in the long-running Gallipoli exhibition at Te Papa are central to the narrative, so the collections team created tailor-made cases and an alarm system to ensure the safety of their staff, volunteers and visitors.  Carolyn McGill, Kaitiaki Taonga Collection Manager provided details about Te Papa’s approach.

“My understanding of the idea of fixing a cabinet to the wall is so that someone can’t carry it away, gun and all. In Gallipoli, Te Papa’s display cases are either fixed to the wall or structure, or in the case of the machine guns, are too huge to carry away.

“The guns themselves are mounted so that they are screwed or clamped to the case in some manner – you can’t just get in and lift it out. In most cases each mount is tailor-made to each gun. The mounts also perform the task of seismic protection as well.” Te Papa has multiple layers of security around firearms on display, including security cameras, alarmed and securely fastened cases, custom mounts, and visible hosts and security guards.

Attaching the mount for a Mauser C96 Pistol with Stock for the Gallipoli exhibition. Photo courtesy of Callum Strong, Te Papa

Considerations for firearms mounts

Typically a specialist mount maker will be contracted to create mounts for display of firearms. This will ensure that the mounting solution meets both the security and aesthetic requirements of the display. A mount can be created in a way which locks it to a wall or cabinet and is impossible to remove without specialist tools and knowledge of exactly how it was fixed. A mount should also be designed to provide protection from seismic movement.

Your local firearms officer should be consulted throughout the process and will provide advice on appropriate materials, such as gauge of metal, case requirements, and mounting systems to meet security requirements. Each mount and display system needs to be approved by the firearms officer.

Comprehensive details should be provided to the firearms officer any time a firearm is put on display including details of the collection item, serial number and how long it will be on display.

Storage options for firearms

Te Papa’s firearm collections are stored in a strong room, with all ammunition and ‘vital parts’ stored in a gun safe in another building as per the current legislation requirements. For those with just a few firearms in their collection, a gun safe or cabinet that is fixed securely to the building may be suitable.

Outdoor recreation retail stores and hardware stores sell gun safes which are inexpensive but meet the criteria for gun storage – ranging from about $180 – $400 for a small locker or cabinet. Safes with extra locked storage shelves for ammunition are available, but be aware of the requirement for ammunition to be stored separately.

Think carefully about the reasons for holding any ammunition as part of your collection, i.e. does the ammunition have important historical value, does it tells a story , or would there be a reason to fire the firearm? If there isn’t a good reason consider deaccessioning it from your collection, and arrange for disposal through the police.

Support to store and display firearms

National Services Te Paerangi can provide funding to support firearms security through the Helping Hands Grant, or use our Expert Knowledge Exchange programme to host an expert at your place.

Find out more about help and support available from National Services Te Paerangi

Further resources

The He Rauemi Resource Guide: Museum Security provides an overview of security considerations for museums.

Download He Rauemi Resource Guide 35: Museum Security

Our NSTP Zui from August 2021 discusses firearms storage and display requirements.

Listen again to the NSTP Zui Storage and Display of firearms in museums

Museums Aotearoa has further resources about changes to the Arms Licencing Act 2020, including the requirement for museums to hold a Dealers Licence.

See Museums Aotearoa Firearms Licencing resources and Q & A

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