AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File
Today’s the deadline for gun owners in New Zealand to hand over their now-banned firearms, but gun control activists and gun owners alike are asking the government to extend the deadline because of the lack of compliance with the new law. As Radio New Zealand reports, Police Minister Stuart Nash is calling the compensated confiscation plan a success, but many disagree.
Police said about 50,000 firearms had been handed in since the buyback started six months ago.
Council of Licensed Firearms Owners spokesperson Nicole McKee said that represents less than a third of the 170,000 semi-automatic weapons estimated to be in circulation in New Zealand.
“The collections themselves, is a failure. We could see that some time ago and it’s actually disappointing to have to acknowledge that it still is. We expected 170,000 firearms to be handed in, and there’s still going to be well over 100,000 still in circulation.”
McKee said the 170,000 estimate was from customs data for imported guns and an estimate of 40,000 firearms already in the country.
Meanwhile, even gun control activists want the New Zealand government to commit to future “amnesty periods” where gun owners can turn in their firearms without fear of prosecution.
Gun Control New Zealand’s Hera Cook, said many had tried and failed to get a handle on the number of banned weapons already in New Zealand, and Colfo’s estimate was just as unreliable.
Cook agreed with Colfo on the need to extend the amnesty and pointed to what happened in Australia after the Port Arthur massacre.
“They didn’t just have the one buyback. They had amnesties later on down the track and they got something like 20 percent of all firearms in Australia.”
Obviously there’s a lot of dispute between gun owners and gun control activists about the number of now-banned firearms that are in the hands of gun owners in New Zealand, and the New Zealand government insists that the vast majority of semi-automatic rifles have been handed over. Police Minister Stuart Nash warned gun owners of the consequence of being caught with a banned gun after today’s deadline passes.
“You can flip a coin. If it lands on tails, then you probably won’t get caught, if it lands on heads and we catch you you’ll not only lose your licence and your firearms, you face a good chance of losing your freedom because the penalty for having one of these banned firearms is maximum five years in jail.
Doing the right thing would mean not banning these commonly owned firearms in the first place, but New Zealand’s government decided to go in a different direction. In a country where there is no right to keep and bear arms, gun owners are now at the mercy of a government that’s declared them criminals for continuing to possess the rifles they lawfully purchased.