Second firearms overhaul announced

The Government has announced the impending second tranche of firearms legislation. The announcement was made following the second of several gun amnesty collection days to recover firearms that had been made illegal in the wake of the 15 March 2019 terrorist attacks.

When the Government announced its plans for dealing wit New Zealand’s arsenal of military grade automatic and semi-automatic weapons, it was intended to happen in two phases. The first, immediate phase, would quickly end the legality to own weapons such as the AR-15 which was used in the Christchurch terrorist attacks. This was the emergency legislation that was pushed through Parliament at speed in March and was enforceable by the end of the same month.

Because a lot of New Zealanders are unaware of Parliamentary process there was a perception that the Government intended to confiscate peoples firearms without whim or reason. This was despite the government being clear that it was intended to be a temporary stop gap measure whilst more comprehensive legislation was drafted. The perception, which was rumoured to have been enabled by American firearm lobbyists, was coldly met by politicians from both sides of Parliament with the exception of A.C.T. Member of Parliament David Seymour.

It would be followed by the much more comprehensive and permanent legislation that would set in law a tighter regime around the acquisition and ownership of such firearms. In the meantime there would be amnesty days up and down the country where people with firearms that had been banned could be surrendered to the Police at drop off points. The owners of the guns being surrendered would be given an indication as to how much they would receive in financial compensation for handing them over.

The Police acknowledge that there are many guns that they probably do not know about. An estimated 200,000 to 300,000 potentially illegal firearms are thought to be circulating within New Zealand.

The new laws will target those with criminal histories; people with mental health issues including those who might have tried to use a gun to kill themselves. Those who are espousing open violence against society or particular individuals or groups of individuals are also likely to be seen as a red flag to Police when issuing gun licences. A firearms register will be established by the Police, and the cost of maintaining the firearms licencing office will be better offset by changes in the cost of licencing. New offences and the matching penalties are also likely to be added.

This time there will be a select committee period lasting three months. There will be substantial time for firearm advocates and firearm safety advocates to get their messages into submissions and prepare for hearings in front of the Select Committee. This was, contrary to the honest beliefs of some, always intended to happen – there was never any intention to block the permanent tranche of legislation from public scrutiny.

U.S. withdrawal from Arms Trade Treaty not helpful

United States President Donald Trump has announced the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty which was presented in 2013. The announcement, which was made in a speech to the National Rifle Association of America, comes as criticism of the National Rifle Association which stands to gain the most, tries to regroup amid infighting and a battering of its image by school shootings.

On one hand the U.S. withdrawal is probably not likely to immediately affect America’s relationship with New Zealand. Despite the Christchurch shooting, and the alleged attempts of the N.R.A. to interfere with New Zealand legislative processes, America understands even if it does not agree, that this is something that New Zealand domestic politics are not for it to be involved in. Any continued interference will no doubt be the work of N.R.A. hacks trying to carry out a perverted agenda we should have nothing to do with.

On the other hand it will however very probably affect how New Zealanders view American foreign policy. New Zealand strong supports the Arms Trade Treaty, which was introduced in an effort to contain the illicit arms trade that has killed millions of people in low intensity conflicts such as that which has been going on in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1994; Sudan and in particular Darfur since 2003; Nigeria for as long as oil has been a valuable commodity. All of these places and others are awash with small arms such as rocket propelled grenade launchers, machine guns, rifles and so forth.

America’s 2nd Amendment is hugely influential. No President of the United States dares to override it. So they tip toe around the end, with Mr Trump’s predecessor signing the A.T.T. in principle but not formally endorsing what it will stand for. No President dares to seriously sanction the N.R.A. or other like minded groups for their attempts at interference in other countries politics, as the N.R.A. tried to do a few years ago in Australia. Even laws that were commented on by commentators, but not seriously thought to be potential law making in progress are seized upon with fury by neo-conservative broadasters, who denounce them as immediately impending danger, when often they are still in draft phase.

What I really struggle with is the delusional idea that New Zealand is going to be sucked into a dictatorship and that the confiscation of guns is just the start. To suggest that the Police are coming for our freedoms is to completely not understand the New Zealand Police, who are for the most part doing a superb job reacting to the threats, informing us and dialling down the danger level when they think it is safe. It is this delusional crap spouted by supposed know alls (who I noted had a degree of intolerance for Muslims that has made this such a toxic debate, whilst also one that has only reinforced why I live in New Zealand.

But it really is the Congolese, the peoples whose lives in these countries and others with weak legal systems and guns sloshing backwards and forwards like water in an overflowing bath, that I feel the sorriest for. Those that have had their lives turned upside down by guns or been caught in the genocide of neighbouring Rwanda would be better off looking at nations that will help them build up their legal systems than maniacs who think bullets are a better form of justice. Maybe New Zealand can help there.

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.