Tomohiro Ohsumi/Pool Photo via AP
Now that New Zealand’s ban on semi-automatic long guns has taken effect, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is pushing another round of gun control legislation, but the country’s gun control advocates are complaining that the new restrictions have been watered down and don’t go far enough to crack down on the country’s legal gun owners and sellers.
The bill was reported back from the finance and expenditure committee on Monday with a raft of recommended changes.
The original bill would have introduced a number of changes, including a national gun register, a potential ban on firearms advertising, tougher tests to be granted a firearms licence, and having those licences expire after five years instead of the current 10 years.
The committee has made a number of recommended changes to the bill, including:
• Firearms that are temporarily transferred for less than 30 days, such as for hunting trips, would not need to be added to the national gun register
• Following advice from the Privacy Commissioner, Government departments would have restricted access to the register, which was previously too broad and open to abuse
• Firearms advertising would need to carry safety information and legal requirements; it was previously up to the police, which raised concerns that it could lead to a total advertising ban
• A successful applicant’s first firearms licence would expire after five years, but subsequent successful applications would expire after 10 years
So, the legislation still establishes a national gun registration system, as well as cracking down on advertising for firearms, but the anti-gun group Gun Control NZ isn’t happy.
Gun Control NZ co-founder Nik Green said that the committee’s loosening of advertising requirements was a cop-out.
“Gun advertising should be regulated like alcohol. You can’t advertise alcohol in a way that promotes irresponsible behaviour.
“We need to similarly prevent the glamourisation of firearms. The select committee has copped out here.”
The committee has largely kept the controversial part of the bill allowing health practitioners to notify police if they think a person’s health might make them unfit to use or possess a firearm.
Police would also be obliged to tell doctors about patients who have been granted a firearms licence.
Keep in mind, there is no right to keep and bear arms in New Zealand, so gun owners can’t point to the Second Amendment and argue that their rights are being infringed by any of these proposals. The best they can do is argue that the proposals are aimed in the wrong direction. The good news, if there is any for gun owners in New Zealand, is that this round of gun control is drawing more opposition from two of the major political parties in the country.
The National Party issued a minority report saying it did not support the bill as it did not target criminal activity.
National MPs on the committee were particularly concerned about police advising health practitioners about patients who hold a firearms licence.
“[This] will result in the private information of around 250,000 New Zealanders being disclosed,” National’s report said.
Act also issued a minority report asking why the bill had been sent to the finance and expenditure committee.
“It is difficult to avoid thinking that the Government has cynically sent the bill to a committee that usually deals with financial matters simply because it has a majority on this committee (but not the more logical Justice Committee),” Act’s report said.
“It is difficult to avoid thinking the Government has prioritised political theatrics over public safety.”
Even the objections by the minority parties may not be enough to scuttle the bill, but it’s clear that Ardern’s gun ban and compensated confiscation plan didn’t cause more New Zealanders to jump on the gun control bandwagon. Instead, it likely hardened up the opposition to any more laws targeting the country’s legal gun owners at the expense of violent criminals.