The New Zealand Firearms Code has Seven Golden rules which everyone must know if they are to obtain a firearm license in this country. All of the rules exist for a reason and any responsible firearm owner/user will – if they want to keep their license be strict on enforcing them. Which makes the gun accidents these last couple of weekends caused by the onset of the duck shooting season all the more disappointing as well as shocking.
Why? Because there are clear elements in one of the incidents where people were killed, where those seven golden rules were not followed. The second incident alludes to what I think should be the eighth golden rule.
In the first, it is obvious that the deceased died because the person using the gun did not do due diligence and make sure that the target was identified beyond all doubt. I mean, how does one shoot another person. Okay, sure they might have been camouflaged so as to not be obvious to ducks overhead, but the words beyond all doubt mean exactly that.
In the second one a hunter went to mount a fence. As he climbed over the fence, his gun discharged, killing him. I was always taught that no matter how small the fence is, if the person holding the gun needs to use their hands, they should dismount the weapon and lie it on the ground, and then climb over.
Tragedies like the reckless accident in the North Island where a lady at a camp site brushing her teeth before she went to bed was shot by someone out spotting with his mates. There were multiple failures in this instance, not least:
- What were they doing shooting from a car?
- Why/how did they fail to make sure of their target?
- Once they realized they had shot someone, why did they not render first aid?
Most hunters are perfectly sensible and would be appalled at what happened. Accidents are going to happen and every once in a while there will be a fatal one, but there needs to be clarity about culpability around the use of firearms. The penalties for deterrence purposes need to be revisited. However, banning hunting as some in the course of knee jerk reactions have suggested, is not the answer and punishing the majority for the actions of a few will not solve the problem.