Last week it was announced that in the wake of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, gun laws will be changing. The announcement, by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern follows an attack on two mosques (with a third planned), that was made possible by the use of high powered semi-automatic weapons with modifications that enable a high rate of fire.
This has however attracted a ferocious backlash from gun owners here and overseas. The gun owners here are reacting to a more immediate threat – it will be their semi-automatics that are affected by the changes that have been announced. This is different from the gun owners overseas who are reacting to something that:
- Has nothing to do with them, and
- Suggests that they have ulterior or otherwise not entirely appropriate motives
The latter is a cause for concern as it includes powerful, well funded lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association of America. The N.R.A. are staunchly opposed to gun control anywhere for any reason. Unconfirmed rumours are going around that they are sending lobbyists over to New Zealand to fight the impending changes, despite no legislation having yet been drawn up, much less ready for the Parliamentary process.
There is no place for the American N.R.A. in New Zealand politics. It is an organization that in recent years has been accused with some justification for inciting politics of fear in order to get Americans to buy firearms many probably don’t want, never mind need. It is an organization that has put down the families of shooting victims and told lies to its membership about the international attempts to reduce the illicit arms trade that fuels low intensity conflicts such as that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
New Zealand does need to make changes to our gun licensing laws. Even some of my friends who do support gun ownership recognize this, but they have drawn the line, perhaps correctly at perhaps holding their weapons at much more tightly controlled shooting ranges. One suggested requiring a check in/check out register to be kept at each firing range of semi-automatic weapons that are secured in an alarmed room.
Ultimately not all guns are being banned, though I did notice letters in The Press suggesting this would be a world leading thing to do. As utopian as this might sound, it is simply impractical for a number of reasons in New Zealand. These include farmers needing them for pest control work; recreational shooting; shooting competitions as well as obviously the need to arm the Defence Force and Police. But also the vast majority of New Zealanders are responsible about their use and ownership of fire arms. It is a minority who abuse them.