Why gun owners are aggrieved by new firearms legislation and have brought poor policing of the old law into their sights

Latest from the Beehive

The New Zealand Police Association has declared it is both pleased and relieved that Parliament voted to pass into law the Arms Legislation Bill.

Association President Chris Cahill said many of the reforms heralded in the bill fall into the ‘better late than never’ category with some at least 30 years overdue.

“The shock to finally act was the murder of 51 people at prayer in two Christchurch mosques 15 months ago. What our politicians have passed today is law that focuses on the future safety of all of us. It also includes a powerful stated purpose – that in New Zealand it is a privilege, not a right, to possess and use a firearm, and with privilege comes responsibilities,” Mr Cahill says.

We suppose he issued this statement with a straight face.  But just just a few days earlier we were told the March 15 terrorist – according to Stuff sources – had been wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures.

Stuff has been told that, among other errors, police failed to interview a family member as required, instead relying on two men who met the terrorist through an internet chatroom.

The error was overlooked when police granted him the firearms licence, allowing the Australian citizen to stockpile the semi-automatic guns later used to murder 51 people.

 More than a year on from the March 15 terror attack, police insiders say the error was the product of a long neglected police firearms system that did not have the resources to properly handle applications. 

“This was avoidable. If police had addressed some of the issues with administering firearms years ago, this could have been avoided,” a source said. 

On March 15, 2019, the gunman entered the  Masjid An-Nur (also known as Al Noor) Mosque in Christchurch and opened fire on worshippers. He then travelled to the Linwood Mosque and again opened fire.

He was armed with semi-automatic firearms he had legally obtained after moving to New Zealand in August 2017. 

And:

 …  a police source has told Stuff the licence application should not have been granted, as police vetting staff failed to properly interview appropriate referees for the terrorist.

A licence applicant must provide two referees to be interviewed by police vetting staff, who are tasked with assessing the risk a person could pose if granted a firearms licence.

According to police’s firearms manual, the first needs to be a next of kin, such as a partner or parent, and the second an unrelated person who knows the applicant well. 

The terrorist’s licence was granted without a family member being interviewed, or even called, according to a source with knowledge of the matter.

And:

Police sources, who include both current and former staff who spoke to Stuff on the condition of anonymity, say the licence would not have been granted if proper procedure was followed.

Another arms officer is supposed to check the applicant has been properly vetted before issuing the licence, yet no red flag was raised about the terrorist’s incomplete file.

The revelations came as Parliament was voting on a second round of firearms reform law this week, after urgently banning semi-automatic weapons in the week after the terror attack. 

The bill was subsequently given a third reading and Police Minister Stuart Nash enthused yesterday:

 Tougher gun laws will begin to take effect from next week following the passage of new firearms legislation through Parliament today.

Never mind that tougher enforcement of the laws already on the books may well have ensured the mosque terrorist was denied legal access to armaments.

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners accordingly feels aggrieved and said the passage of the Arms Legislation Bill today was a ‘terrible injustice’ imposed upon the licenced firearm owning community to cover Police mistakes.

COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee says the law punished firearm owners by changing licence rules that had worked perfectly well until Police switched resources and methods a few years ago.

“The licence rules worked, but it appears that Police didn’t apply them correctly to the Christchurch shooter. The new rules will only be as good as the people applying them.

“Parliament should be embarrassed to have passed a law before anyone – including a Royal Commission – has worked out what the problem was.

“Rather than wait for information on what led to a tragic event and make recommendations, the Government and Police have lashed out at a group of people they had repeatedly certified as trustworthy and of good character.”

But hey.  The government was concerned more about acting in accord with public sentiment  and Nash said the Third Reading of the Arms Legislation Bill was an historic milestone for community safety.

“We know we always have more work to do to make New Zealand a safer place. This is another significant step along the way,” said Stuart Nash.

“The new law is designed to stop firearms falling into the wrong hands. It spells out for the first time that owning a firearm is a privilege, limited to responsible licensed owners.”

One significant change establishes a firearms registry, first recommended by Justice Sir Thomas Thorp in 1997. This will track how many firearms are in legal circulation, who holds them, who is selling them, and who is buying them.

Licence holders will need to keep updating the registry as they buy or sell guns.

They will have just over five years to register all their guns.

Immediate changes following Royal Assent, expected next week, are:

  • Reduced length of firearms licence from 10 to 5 years for first time licence holders and those who have previously had their licence revoked or allowed it to expire;
  • Offences and penalties have been changed to better reflect the seriousness of the offending. Examples include possessing a firearm without a licence which now has a penalty of up to one year in prison or a $15,000 fine (3 months or $1,000 under old system); and selling a firearm to an unlicensed person which carries up to a two year jail sentence or $20,000 fine (3 months or $1,000 under old system);
  • Further high-risk firearms are prohibited including short (pistol-length) semi-automatic rifles. There are new requirements for lawful possession of a pistol carbine conversion kit which converts a pistol into a shoulder-fired firearm;
  • Endorsements for pest control now have a shorter duration and will need to be renewed before the firearms licence expires;
  • More people involved in agricultural and similar businesses can obtain endorsements to possess prohibited firearms where it can be clearly demonstrated these are needed for pest control purposes;
  • Those who come to New Zealand who are issued a licence for up to a year will no longer be able to purchase and take ownership of a firearm in New Zealand.
  • A Ministerial Arms Advisory group will be established to ensure there is ongoing support and advice on firearms matters.

Some changes will follow over a three year period. These include:

  • New rules will take effect in six months to determine who is “fit and proper” to possess firearms and who will be disqualified from holding a firearms licence.
  • The “fit and proper” person status is at the core of any application for a firearms licence. Every person applying must be responsible and trustworthy enough to earn the privilege of holding a firearms licence;
  • There will be new rules in one year governing a gun dealer’s licence, to recognise the range of dealer activities  and associated risks of theft or misuse of firearms;
  • In six months’ time anyone who sells ammunition will need a firearms licence;
  • After two years there will be new requirements for shooting clubs and ranges, which previously were not governed by law. It gives all club committees (including those of pistol clubs) the statutory ability to enforce their own rules around membership and use of ranges.

Nash’s statement and a copy of his third reading speech were among the Beehive’s releases yesterday –

Release

19 JUNE 2020

New roles to help health and healthy relationship teaching

New frontline support for high quality teaching that promotes the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people was announced by Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin today.

Hon Tracey Martin

Education

Release

19 JUNE 2020

NZGIF invests to cut emissions at Wellington port

Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw today welcomed the decision of New Zealand Green Investment Finance (NZGIF) to support projects that will cut emissions at Wellington’s port.

Hon James Shaw

Climate Change

Release

18 JUNE 2020

A new firearms system focused on safety

Tougher gun laws will begin to take effect from next week following the passage of new firearms legislation through Parliament today.

Hon Stuart Nash

Police

Release

18 JUNE 2020

Joint effort underway to repatriate stranded Vanuatu nationals

A massive joint effort between New Zealand Government agencies, employers, and the Vanuatu Government is underway to repatriate over 1000 Vanuatu nationals stranded in New Zealand, Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters and Defence Minister Ron Mark say.

Rt Hon Winston Peters Hon Ron Mark

Deputy Prime Minister

Defence

Foreign Affairs

Speech

18 JUNE 2020

Arms Legislation Bill, Third Reading

Mr Speaker, the details of this bill have been worked on assiduously since it was first announced eleven months ago.

Hon Stuart Nash

Police

Release

18 JUNE 2020

GDP shows expected impacts of moves to protect Kiwis against COVID-19

Today’s GDP figures show the expected impacts of the decision to go hard and early to protect New Zealand against the global COVID-19 pandemic, which now means the economy has been able to open up faster than most countries around the world, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

Hon Grant Robertson

Finance

Release

18 JUNE 2020

Govt doubles rent arrears support as tenancy termination restrictions lift

As current restrictions on tenancy terminations ends under Alert Level 1 on 25 June, the Government is extending and increasing Rent Arrears Assistance to support people at risk of being evicted because they are unable to pay rent, Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, and Associate Housing Minister, Kris Faafoi, announced today.

Hon Carmel Sepuloni Hon Kris Faafoi

Housing

Social Development

Release

18 JUNE 2020

$40m for regional apprenticeships

Reprioritised funding of $40 million from the Provincial Growth Fund will support up to 1000 regional apprenticeships, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said today.

Hon Shane Jones

Regional Economic Development

 

 

 

 

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