Politicians have to change NZ firearm laws

When an Australian comes to New Zealand to massacre 50 people in part because of the ease of obtaining semi-automatic weapons (often referred to as ‘military style’) due to our relatively lax firearms laws, then it is fairly obvious that our politicians have to do something to tighten up our firearms laws. The Prime Minister started our laws will change. The only real question is what the changes will be.

(Note that the terms ‘firearms’ and ‘guns’ are frequently interchanged. Technically the biggest problem is with rifles, which are not guns, but they are commonly included in the general ‘gun’ term).

There have been arguments here at Your NZ against changing firearms laws, and while David Farrar supports law changes there has been a lot of opposition to changes argued at Kiwiblog – see I support gun law changes.

Some valid concerns are raised, but most arguments are similar to what has come up in debate over US gun laws, and I don’t think they stack up.

Allowing people to have easy access to firearms like in the US, and to carry arms in public (to places like schools, churches and mosques), does not prevent mass killings there. To the contrary.

There are two main things being discussed here – the availability of semi-automatic weapons, which make it easy to fire (and kill) rapidly, and the lack of a firearms ownership register or database.

Firearms database

We used to have to register firearms, but this requirement was dropped in the 1990s. It has been claimed that it is now too late to have a register, but I don’t buy that. The vast majority of firearms owners are licensed and are legally required to notify the police of any change of address. It would not be difficult to contact all license holders and require them to register all their weapons.

Arguments are made that that would not cover illegally owned firearms, which is correct, but that is not a solid argument for registering legal weapons.

Semi-automatic firearms

There are some valid arguments for retaining the use of semi-automatic weapons for some purposes, particularly pest control like goat culling and possum control. Most hunters don’t use semi-automatics – they aare a waste of time and bullets for most game shooting.

There are alternatives for controlling pests – where I live there has been a major campaign over the last two years that has significantly reduced possum numbers, without the use of firearms. As a result I have hardly used my semi-automatic .22 for some time.

Australia clamped down on semi-automatics after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, and they have survived without them, proving they are not needed.

There could be a valid argument for banning high velocity semi-automatics and still allowing the use of .22 rim fire semi-autos for pest control. But I don’t think it would cause any insurmountable problems banning all semi-automatics, and it would avoid any chance of loopholes.

Other arguments

In the Kiwiblog comments here – I support gun law changes – there are a lot of arguments that are common in US gun debates that are ridiculous.

It doesn’t take much to realise that in general more guns = more risks and more deaths.


I’d be happy to hand in my semi-automatic, and either get a .22 that requires reloading, or ditch having a a firearm and use other methods of possum and pest control.

In Australia they had a Government buy back scheme.

There has been reports here that there has been a rush on semi-automatic weapon sales in New Zealand since the Christchurch massacres due to talk of tightening the laws. Someone on Twitter suggested that in any buy-back scheme receipts proving purchase prior to the Friday murders be required.  This would unfairly penalise long time owners of semi-automatics who don’t still have receipts.

I think that we must make meaningful changes to our firearms laws. These must be carefully but quickly considered. A recent review could easily form the basis of quick firearm law reform.

Other discussions:

Stuff:  Why do members of the public even need military-style semi-automatic rifles?

Stuff: Christchurch shooting: Taking aim at gun owners

But there are changes that can and must be made.

Police, academics and others have long sought to implement a meaningful firearm register that would give us a better picture of the real number and type of the weapons in this country.

We know we have about quarter of a million firearm users; we have no idea of the weapons they own or even the numbers.

That would be a reasonable first step; a moratorium on the sale and importation of semi-automatics would also make sense.

Newsroom:  Why changing gun laws isn’t that simple

NZ Herald: Trade Me still selling hundreds of semi-automatic guns

NZ Herald:  Why PM Jacinda Ardern could follow Australia’s gun lead and ban semi-automatic weapons

ODT: Kia kaha, Christchurch

The relative ease in which Tarrant was able to legally own high-powered firearms has raised alarms, prompting Ms Ardern to promise changes to our guns laws. This cannot come soon enough.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expected to announce gun law changes following mosque shootings

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is expected to announce a ban on military-style semi-automatic weapons and tighter controls on gun ownership following a Cabinet meeting tomorrow that will focus entirely on the Christchurch mosque shootings.

Ardern has been firm that the country’s gun laws will change following the attacks on two mosques on Friday in which 50 people were killed.

I think ikt will be difficult for any politicians or parties to argue against sensible changes.

It must happen. Some good must come of the Christchurch mosque massacres, and it’s hard to see any real or insurmountable down sides to banning semi-automatic weapons.