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Semi-automatic firearms back on the table in gun laws shakeup

Source: Radio NZ via NEWSHUB


Semi-automatics could make a return to gun ranges with New Zealand's firearms laws in for a major shake-up this term.

National and ACT agreed to rewrite the Arms Act - in place since the early 1980s - as part of its coalition arrangement.

Everything is on the table, including changing the existing licensing regime and re-introducing the military-style weapons used in the 15 March terror attacks.

"It means starting from scratch," Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee told RNZ.

"There's nothing set in stone as we advance this process. The reason why the 1983 Act lasted so long is because there was genuine and good consultation."

The Arms Act 1983 has been home to New Zealand's gun laws for the past four decades and has had many iterations.

McKee said she wanted to change the current licensing system to a graduated system to "enhance public safety".

"Ensuring licensed firearms owners are fit and proper through a graduated system of licensing where people earn trust over time, and a licensing agency carrying out a range of checks, is the sensible way of ensuring public safety."

Also on the table is allowing competitive shooters to use semi-automatics for sport. The only current exemptions are pest control and (disabled) collector's items.

"Over 5000 people, deemed to have a proper purpose, already have a licence for centre-fire semi-automatic firearms. Under the rewrite of the Arms Act, a person would still need a legitimate reason to have a centre-fire semi-automatic firearm," McKee said.

"Meanwhile, higher security and storage requirement would be required and large capacity magazines would continue to be unavailable to those without the proper, vetted endorsement."

Lawmakers near-unanimously supported an amendment to ban semi-automatics after the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings.

It was these restrictions that propelled McKee into politics and she was now spearheading the complete rewrite of our gun laws.

"I'm hoping that we can find a middle ground where we ensure we have good public safety but we also stop treating licensed firearms owners like they're nothing more than common criminals."

McKee wants to roll back what she described as "rushed" and "knee-jerk" legislation so regulations were less onerous on firearms owners.

"Gun ownership is a normal way of life. Now, everyone thinks that it's used just as a weapon, rather than as a sporting tool or a way to put food on the table," she said.

"It's going to be hard to have this conversation because people already have misconceived preconceptions about firearms but [the conversation] does need to start."

'Firearms are no safer than they were before' 

Maysoon Salama - whose son was murdered in the terror attacks - said relaxing gun laws was a step backwards.

"After the 15th of March..we really needed to feel safe and for this not to happen again, to anyone. Just last week there was another threat to the two mosques.

"If they change the regulations, what's going to happen? We still have many people out there who are still full of hatred, Islamophobia and discrimination against minorities."

Salama said she did not want to see any changes to New Zealand's gun restrictions on behalf of a small group of people who wanted to use high-powered guns for sport.

"They can still enjoy their hobby but there is no need for semi-automatic firearms because they mean more situations, these kinds of terrorism acts."

scientific review of 130 studies in 10 countries showed relaxing firearms restrictions typically led to increased gun deaths.

Across the Tasman, Australia has had no mass shootings since banning semi-automatics after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996.

Aliya Danzeisen from the Islamic Women's Council said New Zealand was "far safer" with less semi-automatics.

"If you think about what the Christchurch terrorist did five years ago, he did that in about 17 minutes. He reached two locations, was able to kill 51 people, bullet wound more than 40 and then impact all those who were present for the rest of their lives.

"Firearms are no safer than they were before. The community is not any calmer than it was in 2019. Nothing has changed. So there isn't demonstrated evidence that there is a benefit for this for New Zealand."

Little appetite for changing gun laws

Most people RNZ reporters spoke to in Auckland and Christchurch were opposed to relaxing New Zealand's gun laws.

"Guns kill. They should just be taken out all together," one man said.

"No. I think putting guns into the hands of young people...there are a lot of mental health issues these days. I think it could be disastrous to be honest," a woman added.

"We don't need semi automatic weapons here. You want to go hunting? Use a hunting rifle. There's no need for a semi automatics; we're not America," a man said.

Some were open to making changes, including allowing competitive shooters access to semi-automatics for sport.

"I think for someone who is competing, or something real professional, I think that's fine," a woman said.

"I grew up on a farm and people are responsible, usually. I feel like the mosque shooter was from Australia. He came here and took advantage of a loophole and I don't think it's fair that everyone in New Zealand has to pay for that," another woman said.

McKee said it was likely wholesale firearms reform will be introduced to Parliament before the end of the year.


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1 comentário

The pro-aborts like to say, "no uterus, no opinion."

We should co-opt that. "No firearm, no opinion."

Maysoon Salama is wrong. "Feeling safe" doesn't make you safe. Being able to effectively defend yourself makes you safe, and that's something the government deprived her son of. It is they, not firearms owners, who she should be directing her opprobrium at.

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