Gun law passes third reading; to become law before end of week

The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament yesterday. It will become law before the end of this week.

Now that this has cleared Parliament, we have a basic law that is at best only a temporary fix for a long term problem. Parliament will now need to start work on a much more comprehensive piece of legislation that will provide the long term solution needed to the lack of strength in New Zealand firearms law.

The law passed through the House of Representatives on Wednesday night 119-1. A.C.T. Leader and Member of Parliament for Epsom, David Seymour was the sole vote against the legislation.

Now the tough work begins.

A buy back scheme for those firearms that are banned under Section 5/2A now needs to be set up. When the firearm is handed back so must the ammunition, magazine and any parts that make it possible for the firearm to fired automatically or almost automatically. It does include silencers, telescopic sights, butts, carry bags, and so forth.

How will the Government be sure that all weapons have been handed back, since no register was kept of the arms in question in New Zealand? This will be difficult as people will not have necessarily kept the documentation acknowledging the purchase of the firearm. Whilst the vast majority of New Zealanders will probably acknowledge the need to ban such weapons and return any such guns that they own, there will be a small number other than the gangs who refuse steadfastly to return theirs.

How will the Government address the legitimate question of guns that are needed for shooting competitions, or will New Zealand be like the United Kingdom after the Dunblane massacre and no longer participate? National Member of Parliament Chris Bishop attempted to get provisions inserted yesterday to enable this, but also dealing with Firearm Prohibition Orders. He was out voted.

It would be a shame to no longer be able to participate in sports shooting competitions because the firearms used are no longer permitted. I do believe though that the threats made by some competitive shooters to leave the country were just sour grapes at the thought that firearms legislation might be tightening up.

I do confess that in hindsight the Government was right to introduce emergency legislation and push it through Parliament at speed. That said, much of the opposition might have been shut down if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Minister of Police Stuart Nash and National Party Leader Simon Bridges had made a joint announcement that a significantly longer and more open period for public submissions would follow. This joint appearance in a show of unity would have done much to ease concerns about how the process is being run, though I doubt it would have gotten A.C.T. Leader David Seymour on board.

Ms Ardern and her Caucus can bask in the light of their success tonight, but the real work is just beginning. Just as security and intelligence services are going to be grilled about what they knew and what they did or did not do, the Government should now expect a grilling on the more technical material that they left out of the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts)Amendment Act 2019.



Gun laws passed: Where to from here

For 48 hours earlier this week, Parliament and New Zealand were abuzz with the news that there would be short submission period on emergency legislation banning Military Style Semi-Automatics and Automatic weapons. The legislation which is working its way through Parliament, comes in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attack on 15 March 2019.

On Friday with submissions closed, the Select Committee began the massive task of making sense of all of the submissions (more than 3,000 at the end of Wednesday). It will have to work fast because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that the law will be passed in two to three weeks.

Ultimately now that the law has passed the submission stage, the expectation that Parliament will come back and address the concerns that it blithely skipped over during the 48 hour consultation period is very real. It is real for all of the right reasons:

  1. The speed, whilst being emergency legislation, was nonetheless very dangerous to the democratic principles on which this country was founded
  2. The speed of the legislation meant that many with technical knowledge and experience operating firearms have been sidelined because they could not get a submission in that 48 hour period
  3. The legislation will have a host of mistakes in it for lack of time to properly proof read, and make sure no unintended consequences exist based on ones interpretation
  4. A failure to address this now means that there is a higher probability of Parliament being made to repeal the legislation entirely later and possibly coming in with some sort of watered down law

There is, I have been told, by an Amnesty International New Zealand staff member, a second opportunity which will be more prolonged for the public to make submissions on the law. I assume that interpretation means that this is a stop gap measure and that as such it will expire when more robust legislation is implemented sometime from now.

This absolutely had better be the case. When I mention people with technical knowledge and experience, I am talking about those who regularly handle such weapons in places like shooting ranges, people who supply and repair gun cabinets, gun parts and guns themselves.

Legislation has a very precise wording and format that it must take when being drafted. It also has certain Parliamentary conventions to follow. Failure to do this I assume has the potential to render the legislation inoperable, which would no doubt delight some people and organizations. An example of the format can be found here.

In its current state the emergency law must have a sunset clause. It cannot be more than temporary whilst longer term legislation is put through Parliament.

I now wait, as I am sure many many other New Zealanders do too, to see what form this emergency legislation finishes its trip through Parliament in. I then expect that Parliament will start work on the longer term legislation so that certainty can be restored to our gun laws, whilst at the same time making New Zealand and New Zealanders, safer.

Parliamentary rush to pass firearms legislation bad for democracy

The shortness of this article is not a reflection on a crude effort, so much as what I am intending to say simply does not need any more space than that allowed here. It regards the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill which is before Parliament now and open to public submissions from New Zealanders until 1800 hours today.

I have a major problem with the manner in which this Bill of Parliament (BoP) is proceeding. But let me be very clear now. This is legislation that ultimately DOES need to pass through Parliament and be made law.

However the manner in which the B.o.P. is proceeding is reckless and will possibly wind up having to be substantially overhauled or thrown out and done from scratch a second time. Yes we might need it quickly – but not so quickly that technical knowledge about their maintenance and capacity is ignored by Parliamentarians who might have – for all we know – never picked up a gun in their life.

I suggest Parliament start again. The B.o.P. should have its reading and then be put out to the public of New Zealand for a full four working weeks, before being considered by the Select Committee for another two working weeks. Only at that point should it go back to Parliament.

We can still have this law sent to the Governor General for Royal Assent by Queens Birthday it Parliament follows my suggestion. It just means that it will be far more robust and likely to survive any court challenge or other legal attempt to take it down.

End of September deadline for M.S.S.A. weapons; “Gun battles” heat up on internet

Two weeks after the Christchurch mosques were attacked the form and timeline of the gun amnesty is taking shape. The start and finish dates of the amnesty period in which firearm owners can surrender their Military Style Semi-Automatic and automatic weapons, as well as the modifications and any parts needed to give them the capacity to have high rates of fire have been announced. Owners of the gun types affected will have from Friday 12 April until the end of September to surrender their weapons – six months from now. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters made the announcement today following the weekly Cabinet meeting.

However the leader of the Mongrel Mob Sonny Fatu insists that gangs will not be handing their guns in, despite warnings from the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Police Stuart Nash. This comes after reports that the rival Mongrel Mob gang would be likewise refusing to hand their arsenal of weapons over. And to combat this, the Government has been examining the suitability of prohibition orders and what effect they might have on the situation. Mr Nash also announced the addition of further police including some who will work in the organised crime squad.

All people living in and visiting New Zealand are subject to the laws and regulations of this country. There is not an exception to be made to the gangs, irrespective of their patch, how big they are or what good they do in the community.

I assume therefore that Customs will be given more resources and funding to track down illegally imported firearms after that time, which will include the AR-15 rifle. This was the type used in the attack because it could be modified to have a high rate of fire and use magazines that could carry up to 100 rounds. I further assume that penalties for owning such illegal weapons are going to substantially increase.

Whilst one battle in Parliament to rid New Zealand of M.S.S.A. type weapons, other battles are heating up on the internet as lobby groups such as Gun City mobilize their supporters. David Tipple of Gun City is one of numerous individuals sponsoring adverts on Facebook that are targetting people who are undecided about the debate and hope to drastically weaken if not force the outright repeal of the ban and the Bill of Parliament that is going to go before the House today.

Unconfirmed rumours (I got it from Henry Cooke, journalist at Stuff)are circulating that the National Rifle Association of America is sending senior members to New Zealand to help gun lobbyists here fight the impending ban. If true, this amounts to serious meddling and shows a distinct lack of ethics, empathy or responsibility on the part of the N.R.A., who I honestly believe can go and bonk themselves. The N.R.A. fought aggressively against the Arms Trade Treaty that Amnesty International and Oxfam along with numerous Governments including the New Zealand Government (both fifth Labour and fifth National-led Governments supported it)supported. Their message was that it would interfere with domestic firearm laws around the world, which is not at all true; that the United Nations has an agenda to ban guns, which again is not at all true.

Along with all of this, debates about gun laws are starting to turn toxic. Emotions are being injected in place of fact and unfortunately the Government has not helped the situation by only giving submitters one week to make submissions on the legislation. In fact it smacks of the previous National-led Government’s penchant for using urgency because it was convenient and not necessary.

Firearm laws changing in wake of Christchurch attack

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:

  1. Has nothing to do with them, and
  2. 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.