Government planning firearm law changes, but important questions unanswered

It’s inevitable that New Zealand’s firearm laws are changed in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made it clear that the Government intends to make changes quickly, and will announce these within a week, but at this stage what is planned is vague.

There is certain to be changes to legal availability of semi-automatic weapons, and I think that most people accept this as necessary to some extent.

But there are fairly good reasons for retaining the ability to lawfully use semi-automatics for some purposes, especially semi-automatic .22 rimfire rifles for pest control (particularly possum control), and also semi-automatic shotguns for fowl control (like geese culling).

Ardern at her post-Cabinet media conference yesterday:

Cabinet today made in-principle decisions around the reform of our gun laws. I intend to give further detail of these decisions to the media and public before Cabinet meets again next Monday. This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer.

In the intervening period, we will be working hard and as quickly as we can to finalise some of the details around the decision Cabinet has made today and the consequences of it.

The clear lesson from history around the world is that to make our community safer, the time to act is now. I know that this might for a short period create a small degree of uncertainty amongst some gun owners, including those who possess guns for legitimate reasons, and I particularly acknowledge those in our rural communities. I want to assure you that the work that we are doing is not directed at you.

In fact, I strongly believe that the vast majority of gun owners in New Zealand will agree with the sentiment that change needs to occur. I, in fact, believe that they will be with us.

In the meantime, I want to remind people: you can surrender your gun to the police at any time. In fact I have seen reports that people are, in fact, already doing this.

I applaud that effort, and if you’re thinking about surrendering your weapon, I would encourage you to do so.

I have a semi-automatic .22 and have considered surrendering it, but at this stage have decided to wait. I actually need it over the next few weeks, as it is time to reduce my sheep flock before winter, and a rifle is the best way to start the process. For this I don’t operate it as a semi-automatic as I use low velocity cartridges that have insufficient power to reload – I have to manually clear the spent cartridge and manually reload.

Ardern revealed a little more at her media conference – Government has agreed to gun law changes, will tell public within week

Ardern made the quasi-announcement following an extended Cabinet meeting with ministers on Monday, which was widened to include Confidence and Supply partners the Green Party.

Ardern, who appeared alongside Deputy Prime Minister and NZ First leader Winston Peters, said there was no disagreement around the Cabinet table on the decision.

“Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms that I think will make New Zealanders safer,” Ardern said.

“In the intervening period we will be working hard and as quickly as we can to finalise some of the details around the decision Cabinet has made today and the consequences of it.”

Ardern said she realised this period would create uncertainty for gun owners. She said the changes would not be aimed at responsible gun owners.

Peters, who has in the past opposed gun law reform, said that on Friday “our whole world changed. And some of our laws will as well”.

Ardern applauded those who had voluntarily surrendered their guns to police since the attack. She advised against prospective gun-owners making purchasing decisions in the coming days.

I presume that is aimed at people thinking of rushing in and purchasing a semi-automatic rifle to beat a ban (I think that is futile and silly), but more generally it is good advice.

I am likely to replace my rifle with a bolt action, but I don’t think now is a good time to rush into that. My rifle is stored safely and securely, ammunition is locked away separately, and only I know how to access it.

As for arguments for retaining some use of semi-automatics, some have been made here at Your NZ.

Andrew:

“Most hunters don’t use semi-automatics – they are a waste of time and bullets for most game shooting.”

This is true for large game. I have no issue all at all making all access to MSSA’s and semi-automatic “rifles” that can take an external magazine restricted. I would not include a .22 rimfire semi-automatic in this list though.

I would have an issue, however, if they banned semi-auto shotguns. Auto loading shotguns are by far the most commonly used shotgun for shooting water fowl. Every year we cull up to 1000 geese in and around the Waikato area. Being stuck with a side by side would make this next to impossible without large scale poisoning.

Ant Corke:

Semi automatic firearms are a tool that are currently used by pest controllers and DOC rangers to erradicate pests such as rabbits and wallabies that infest the central south island, feral pigs and goats that destroy important endangered species habitats throughout New Zealand. The goverment’s commitment for the Battle for the Birds and Preditor Free 2050 requires firearms that have sufficient firepower to ensure high productivity. A blanket ban would hamper this. There are laws, such as the E Category which could be widened to restrict easy access to these firearms without removing a very important conservation tool.

Careful thought is required in drafting new legislation not knee jerk reactions from the ill informed.

I think these are both valid points in the debate over restricting access to semi-automatic firearms, and i hope the Government carefully considers these – Ardern has given an indication that they are listening to legitimate firearms users.

There are legitimate uses for semi-automatics that could justify special licensing to allow their use. This could be similar to the current special licensing to possess and use poisons for pest control.

After carefully considering things I have decided that I have good reason to still to have a firearm. I can switch from semi-automatic to bolt action and may well do this. If special licensing is required for any semi-automatic then I am unlikely to bother with that.

I think that just about all responsible firearm owners and users accept and support the need for some restrictions and law changes.

We will have to wait and see what extent the changes end up requiring.

Prime Minister’s post-Cabinet statement on terror attacks

A statement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on progress on dealing with issues related to the Christchurch mosque massacres, including announcing an inquiry into the attacks, and plans for firearm law reform.


PM statement on Christchurch mosques terror attack

Before I begin I want to acknowledge again and use this opportunity to again highlight 1737 as the contact number that anyone can text or call if they are feeling distress, if they have any mental health concerns for themselves or a loved one.

We have had, I’m advised, over 500 calls or contacts to the 1737 number. It has ranged from people who simply feel distressed to those themselves — those who have been caught up in the terrorist attack on Friday. So it is a line that has specialist support available and I again encourage those who need it to utilise it.

Let me give you an overview to begin with of the coming days. Tomorrow, as the Leader of the House has advised, members of Parliament will gather in the House at 2pm to make statements of condolence for victims of the Christchurch mosques terror attack. The House will then adjourn for the day and will meet again on Wednesday at 2pm for members’ day.

On Wednesday, I will return to Christchurch. I will be meeting again with first responders, including St John’s ambulance and front-line support staff. I plan on meeting with family members, but I’m also very mindful that families are receiving their loved ones for burial and I certainly intend, and I ask others also, to be respectful of course at this hugely sensitive time.

Today Cabinet was expanded to include representatives from our confidence and supply support partner, the Green Party. It was an opportunity to discuss several key issues and pieces of work, and having all parties around the table has helped to expedite that process. I’ll run through now several preliminary decisions that have been made.

Firearms laws

Cabinet today made in-principle decisions around the reform of our gun laws. I intend to give further detail of these decisions to the media and public before Cabinet meets again next Monday. This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer.

In the intervening period, we will be working hard and as quickly as we can to finalise some of the details around the decision Cabinet has made today and the consequences of it.

As a Cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear: the terror attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores.

It was in fact one of the worst globally in recent times.

It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws.

The clear lesson from history around the world is that to make our community safer, the time to act is now. I know that this might for a short period create a small degree of uncertainty amongst some gun owners, including those who possess guns for legitimate reasons, and I particularly acknowledge those in our rural communities. I want to assure you that the work that we are doing is not directed at you.

In fact, I strongly believe that the vast majority of gun owners in New Zealand will agree with the sentiment that change needs to occur. I, in fact, believe that they will be with us.

In the meantime, I want to remind people: you can surrender your gun to the police at any time. In fact I have seen reports that people are, in fact, already doing this.

I applaud that effort, and if you’re thinking about surrendering your weapon, I would encourage you to do so.

Inquiry announced

Today it was also agreed that there will be an inquiry to look at the specific circumstances leading up to the Christchurch mosques terror attack on March 15. The purpose of this inquiry is to look at what all relevant agencies knew or could or should have known about the individual and his activities, including his access to weapons and whether they could have been in a position to prevent the attack.

It will look at whether there were any impediments to the sharing of information, such as legislative or intelligence sharing challenges. The key agencies we’ll be looking at include the New Zealand SIS, GCSB, Police, Customs, and Immigration I want to highlight again, though: this is an inquiry that these agencies absolutely support.

The inquiry will also look at the individual’s travel movements to and from New Zealand, and internationally; his activities in New Zealand; and his use of social media and his connection to others.

The terms of reference are currently being finalised, and decisions around who will lead the inquiry and what form it will take will also be made shortly. Our key considerations will be public confidence in the work, timeliness, and the management of classified information. We’re also mindful, of course, that criminal proceedings are under way.

Commemorations and future memorial date

The Government has also had preliminary discussions around ensuring New Zealanders have the ability to commemorate as one the lives lost at Deans Avenue and Linwood mosques. A number of vigils have already been held in local communities throughout New Zealand; I have no doubt that these will continue.

In fact, I encourage people to come together. While I will not be announcing the memorial date today, I can assure you that the Department of Internal Affairs will be working in conjunction with the Muslim community, iwi, local government, and the mayor of Christchurch, police, and other agencies.

I can confirm the memorial will not be held this week. We want to ensure that the priority for the coming days is the families’ opportunity to grieve together. I will, however, look to announce a date as soon as I am able.

ACC grants

As I said yesterday, the families of those who have lost a loved one can apply for a funeral grant of around $10,000, which is made available via ACC.

What I’ve made clear to agencies today is that further costs should be covered upfront for these families taking their loved ones overseas. Details around these provisions are currently being finalised by officials, but Victim Support will help manage this process with the victims’ families.

There will continue to be high police visibility and presence over coming weeks in Christchurch. I understand this may concern some people, but it is not about a specific threat.

As I’ve said before, this is about taking a precautionary approach and providing reassurance as investigations continue into the terrorist attack on Friday.

Simon Bridges and National on the Christchurch mosque massacres

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has been the primary political focus in response to the Christchurch mosque massacres. She has done a very good job in many respects. She has been very good at communicating with the public generally in her media conferences, and she shows obvious empathy and rapport when dealing with those affected by the killings.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has been far less visible, understandably.

He and other politicians travelled with Ardern on a visit to Christchurch on Saturday, in a show of political solidarity.

There have been two official National party statements.

Friday:  Opposition Leader condemns Christchurch attack

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has condemned the Christchurch attacks and expresses condolences to the people of Canterbury.

“Details are still emerging but the attacks are shocking.

“We stand with and support the New Zealand Islamic community.  No one in this country should live in fear, no matter their race or religion, their politics or their beliefs.

“My thoughts, and the thoughts of the National Party are with the victims of today’s attacks, along with their families and friends. My heart goes out to all of you.”

Saturday:  Opposition Leader visits Christchurch

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today visited Christchurch alongside the Prime Minister and other Party Leaders and met with the Islamic community, some of the affected families and emergency responders.

“Now is not a time for politics. The National Party stands in solidarity with the Prime Minister and the Government in condemning the horrific and violent terrorist attack in Christchurch yesterday.

“My deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers go to all those directly affected by yesterday’s events, but also to the wider Canterbury community.

“This is not something that has happened to just the Islamic community, or just to Christchurch. It has happened to all New Zealanders.

“It is foreign to everything that makes us Kiwis, our beliefs, our values, our tolerance, how we live and get along with one another.

“We offer our support in any way we can. We are with you today and tomorrow.”

Monday: Simon Bridges on RNZ on firearm laws

Change is needed, I understand that.

I am open to any and all changes.

Be very clear, I am up for change.

The National Party will be constructive.

Do you want military style semi-automatic weapons available?

He kept responding in general terms, that he is up for any and all change.

There is a Prime Minister and a Government we are supporting on this.

He says he is now waiting until the Prime Minister comes back with proposals on law changes. It sounds like bridges may have some sort of understanding with Ardern about how to proceed on this.

He could be more definitive, but in general I think it’s fair enough to see what the Government proposes. Once that is announced, Bridges will need to be more clear.

 

 

How the Christchurch killer was apprehended

NZ Herald has what they say is exclusive information about how the person deemed responsible for the Christchurch mosque massacres was apprehended.

NZH: Christchurch mosque shootings: Police reveal how they caught the alleged gunman

The Herald has exclusive details about how the officers, after hearing there was an active shooter on the loose in the city, took to the streets to find him – and stop him.

The officers, who the Herald has agreed not to name, are both based in smaller towns out of Christchurch.

That town has been named in other media coverage.

Their boss rural response manager Senior Sergeant Pete Stills said the pair had travelled into Christchurch to attend a training session at Princess Margaret Hospital in Cashmere.

The training was held on a disused floor of the hospital and was around room clearance and dealing with offenders in armed incidents.

“They were actually training when the call came through that there was an active armed offender in Christchurch,” Stills told the Herald.

“They had their work vehicles there with them with firearms in them.

“They operationalised themselves and got into one car, they decided to skirt the city, they thought that’s what the offender would do – rather than drive through the CBD.

“They were driving on Brougham Street because they thought if he’d just been to Linwood [the second mosque attacked] that’s a route he might take.”

Moments later they spotted a suspicious car.

“They saw someone fitting the description of the offender coming towards them,” Stills said.

“The car was weaving in and out of lanes with its hazard lights on.

“They confirmed the rego, that it was the right car, and did a U-turn.”

Stills said the officers have more than 40 years of policing between them and had the experience to handle the situation.

“They were trying to catch up with him, they were discussing tactics – did they want to pursue him?”

Stills said the officers weighed up a pursuit, where the gunman could have got away and “unleashed” on more innocent members of the public.

They also had to consider whether pursuing him would cause a crash which could also be fatal and involve innocent road users.

“They decided to bring it to an end as quickly as possible and they decided to immobilise the car by ramming it,” Stills said.

They rammed the gunman’s car on the driver’s side and footage supplied to the Heraldshows the officers dragging him out of the passenger side.

Stills said one officer saw “high risk” items in the back of the car and ran back round to the police car to radio the information in and warn other police.

He believed those items would put his colleagues in danger and wanted to tell them to stay back.

While doing that he lost sight of the alleged gunman and was worried for his colleague so he abandoned the plan and went back to the passenger side.

“He yelled at members of the public to get back,” said Stills.

“The car posed a danger.”

Once the alleged gunman was contained both officers used the radio to alert other police to the situation.

While police chases are controversial I don’t think there will be much if any criticism of this one.

Stuff: Video captures act of bravery as police arrest Christchurch shooting suspect

NZ Herald:  Exclusive footage of mosque shooting arrest: Suspect dragged along sidewalk