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.

More twists in Mediaworks firearm purchase

While journalists generally have been supportive of Heather Du Plessis-Allan over the Story rifle buying story, and scathing of the police for searching her home David Fisher and NZ Herald have been doing some actual investigative journalism.

Fisher reveals a number of very pertinent facts in The Big Read: Twist to TV gun-buying tale.

Elements of TV3’s gun buying story were contrived as documents show a production manager on the show may be directly implicated in the purchase and delivery of the .22 rifle at the centre of a police inquiry.

The Herald also understands Mark Weldon, the boss of TV3’s owner MediaWorks, appears to have personally approved the gun buying story.

During broadcast of the story, du Plessis-Allan was shown holding a piece of paper to the camera saying: “Normally you take this form down to the police station along with your firearms licence. The police officer checks that you actually do have a firearms licence and signs at the bottom of the form. We can tell you we didn’t take the form to a police station.”

In the wake of an outcry over the search, police put out a press release saying TV3 staff would not be interviewed so detectives took “steps necessary to obtain the information required to progress the investigation”.

Du Plessis-Allan told viewers that night TV3 had handed over information sought by officers.

“They asked me for the original mail order form – I handed it over. They never asked me for my handwriting samples and know that had they done it, I would have handed them over.”

The Herald has studied the copy of the mail order form used to buy the rifle from Gun City and compared it to the form shown in the broadcast on October 21. The documents are different – the “B” in “bolt”, the “R” in “rifle” and the “AC” in “action” most strikingly so.

It means detectives were confronted with the possibility of more documentation other than that which was used to purchase the weapon.

The existence of two forms would compel detectives investigating the gun buy to search for other documentation, according to Criminal Bar Association president and former police detective Tony Bouchier.

The search warrant of du Plessis-Allan’s home was for more than handwriting samples:

The single reference to the “original mail order form” by du Plessis-Allan has been the only comment about the documentation used to buy the rifle. Both Story hosts have spoken repeatedly of the search being to obtain handwriting samples, referring to police “looking for handwriting samples”.

There has been no reference to the second part of the search warrant – of which the Herald has a copy – and its second stated objective. The warrant specifically seeks “all copies of the Gun City mail/online order form, or other sheets of paper that have Justin Devine’s signature on it,” referencing a copy of the actual order form used to buy the weapon and the false name adopted for the purchase.

Another person involved:

Along with the order in the name of “Justin Devine”, the form carried a credit card number said to be in the name of “J Devine”.

Story’s production manager is Jayne Devine, according to her LinkedIn page. The address on the Gun City mail order form to which the rifle was delivered has been matched by the Herald with Ms Devine’s home address.

So the Story story was a packaged story that left out a few of the details. As has coverage of the search.

While a jail term is a possible outcome for forgery and impersonating a police officer I don’t think that would an appropriate penalty. But it seems reasonable for the police to investigate this.

And it’s good to see journalists like Fisher doing some hard core investigating rather than just jumping on the media bandwagon (and mutual defence wagon).

 

Illegally buying a firearm

Story (TV3) ran a story last night showing how Heather Du Plessis-Allan bought a firearm, pointing out how ridiculously easy it was to buy a rifle online.

This is a serious concern – but serious concerns have also been raised about the use of a fake name and a fake firearms license number, and also allegedly used the name, ID number and signature of a fictitious police officer.

(Reports refer to a gun license – they are called firearms licences. And the ‘gun’ that was purchased was a rifle).

What you should do is print off an order form, fill it in and then go to a police station with a firearms licence to get Police to verify it and sign the form.

The Story report simply says they didn’t visit a police station.

Highlighting a problem with the ease of purchasing firearms has some merit. But forging police officer details and ‘obtaining by deception’ are potentially serious offences and the police “would not rule out charging the woman who bought the gun”.

Story reports (video at the link): Loophole in gun laws needs to close.

Story was able to obtain a rifle, but it should not have been able to happen and it was too easy to get.

There is a serious weakness in the gun laws that should be closed.

Perhaps – but how tough should procedures be to prevent false claims and forgery?

It would be interesting to know what led to Story doing this? Did someone suggest it to them? Were the ways of faking application details also suggested?

A mail order form was printed off the gun dealer’s website. A fake name and gun license number was used, and the form was not taken to a police station.

Duncan Garner says “we bought it under the name who simply doesn’t exist and who doesn’t have a firearms licence” – obviously if they don’t exist.

The form was sent to Gun City and on the same day, Story received a call.

Two phone calls happened, but information was not checked either time.

A few days later, a parcel arrived.

I could imagine someone in a rural area wanting to obtain a firearm (legally) but why in a city like Auckland? It would be far quicker and easier to do it in person at a shop – and easier to check fraud. Firearms llcences have the holder’s photo on them.

Story wants to stress that someone with a current firearms license was nearby who took possession of the rifle. It was locked away in a steel cabinet as the law requires.

Complying with bits of the law is not a defence against others. Du Plessis-Allen says they also didn’t have any ammunition for the rifle (it was .22 calibre) – a firearms licence would be necessary to purchase ammunition.

And I presume ammunition can’t be delivered along with a rifle,

Gun City is taking a private prosecution against Story and does not believe criminals exploit this weakness, so think nothing needs to change. However, they have admitted they will make changes.

I can imagine them being very unhappy about being duped into selling a firearm to Story.

StoryRifleSproting

$300 sounds cheap for a .22 rifle but what do you expect when the manufacturer can’t spell Sporting on the instructions.

Stuff reports that Police are investigating – Gun shop owner vows to prosecute TV3 reporter:

A gun shop owner is vowing to privately prosecute TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan, claiming she bought a gun without a licence for her current affairs show.

Auckland City Police has announced it has opened a criminal investigation into the purchase of the gun over the internet.

The police investigation stemmed from a report “from a woman alleging that false details had been used to fraudulently obtain a firearm via an online dealer”, the police statement said.

“For anyone to possess a firearm without having the necessary license is a criminal offence and, if proven in court, could result in a sentence of up to three months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $1000.

“Charges for obtaining by deception, if proven, carries penalties ranging from three months imprisonment up to seven years imprisonment depending on the value of the item obtained.”

And Gun City isn’t happy:

A gun shop owner is vowing to privately prosecute TV3 reporter Heather du Plessis-Allan, claiming she bought a gun without a licence for her current affairs show.

Owner David Tipple said the store had broken no laws – but claimed du Plessis-Allan and TV3 could be in trouble.

If police didn’t prosecute the journalists, he would take a private case against them, he said.

He claimed that: “We’ve done nothing wrong. We have completely and absolutely complied with the law.”

The form for the gun purchase had, he claimed, been forged, using a fake name against a fake gun licence number that just happened to be a valid number for a licensed New Zealand gun user.

Tipple said maybe du Plessis-Allan just got lucky with the licence number.

His bigger concern was that the gun form also featured the name, ID number and signature of a fictitious police officer.

That is a concern.

To what extent of illegality should journalists be able to go to prove deficiencies in legal procedures?

I could imagine Police not being very happy if Story did a story on how easy it was to buy drugs by buying drugs.

David Bain evidence and Kiwiblog links

David Giles has featured on 3rd degree as having discussed the Bain murder case on Kiwiblog, and followed a link from there to a photo that has uncovered what could be important new evidence in the case.

It shows that Robin Bain is likely to have loaded at least one of the rifle magazines used in the shooting.

New evidence could clear David Bain

A newly re-examined photo of Robin Bain’s hand could vindicate his son David from killing his whole family.

Waikato businessman David Giles has told 3rd Degree how he came across a crime scene photo of Robin’s hand online, and noticed some little marks on his thumb and forefinger.

“What struck me was the marks that were on Robin Bain’s thumb and forefinger,” he said. “We’ve got this rubbing mark here, and these twin parallel lines here. These are marks that are associated with loading the gun and handling the magazine.”

I’ve just tested this with my own .22 magazine and get marks in exactly the same place.

Kiwiblog threads:

READ MORE: A timeline of events in the David Bain case

UPDATEs:

Kiwiblog is at it again hamer and tongs in The Bain marks

From 3 News: