Firearm safety in museums

It is important for firearms in museum collections to be catalogued, stored, handled and displayed in a way that ensures the safety of visitors, kaimahi and volunteers. Whether you’re a small museum with volunteer staff or a larger museum, there are several ways to meet the legal requirements as outlined by the Firearms Safety Authority.

Obtaining a Firearms Dealer Licence

If you manage, oversee, and control the display and possession of arms items in your museum’s collection you must apply for a Firearms Dealer Licence. This is to ensure that you can oversee the firearm stock in your collection responsibly.

Recording of firearms information for the purpose of obtaining a Firearms Dealer Licence

This is the minimum amount of information to be kept in your collection management system:

Accession No 
Acquisition Date          
Acquisition Source      
Acquisition Source Address    
Firearm Type  
Firearm Category        
Primary Maker name only      
Firearm Model             
Firearm Action Type   
Firearm Calibre            
Firearm Serial Number            
Name Title      

Storage of firearms  

Consult your local arms officer at New Zealand Police for advice on what is best for your museum’s firearms collection. Ensure firearms are rendered inoperable by removing ammunition, bolts and firing pins, store these components securely and separately from the firearms themselves Consider a safe in another room or building as the best option.

Consider creating a strong room or armoury to store the firearms

Read through the NZ Police’s Secure Storage Guidelines when setting up a secure facility.

Numbering firearms

To label a firearm with an accession number choose a flat, discrete area that will not be visible when the firearm is on display.  Often the barrel, the butt plate or the bottom of the trigger guard is good.  Apply a strip of B72, let it dry.  Apply the accession number using acid free ink, let it dry.  Apply a topcoat of B67 and let dry before returning to storage.

For convenience, so the identification numbers are visible without having to remove the firearm from its rack or nest, create a paper label which clearly has on it the accession number, title and serial number.  Attach this with cotton or cotton tape to the trigger guard or other loop or ring on the firearm.A prohibited firearm, part or magazine that does not already have a serial number must be permanently labelled as required by Arms Amendment Regulations 2019.  Using a professional diamond tip or vibrating mechanical engraver is the most cost-efficient and convenient method. 

Displaying firearms

Picture of firearms on display in an exhibition setting


Firearms from the New Zealand Police Museum collection are displayed within the museum in alarmed cases with reinforced glass fronts and discrete/hidden fixtures. Source: New Zealand Police Museum

Directors or curators of museums must ensure that an arms item or ammunition on display is not able to be handled by members of the public, firearms are rendered inoperable and adequately secured in a manner.

  • All firearms on display must be rendered inoperable
  • All firearms on display should be secured, e.g. in a locked display cabinet, custom mount and/or an alarmed case to prevent unauthorized handling or theft.
  • Visitors must not be able to touch or handle firearms.
  • It is desirable that extra layers of security are added, such as vibration alarms, CCTV and visible staff.