The controversial confiscation of firearms in ammunition in New Zealand is now playing out in court, and attorneys for the New Zealand government made a shocking argument in court on Monday in a challenge to the confiscation of legally-owned ammunition. The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners is suing the government over the fact that, while compensation was provided when residents were ordered to hand over their banned firearms, they were also told to turn in their ammunition without compensation.
Gun owners say that amounts to an illegal taking of property, but the New Zealand government argues that once they’ve banned something, you no longer have any right to keep it.
The Government did not need to compensate people for making them hand over ammunition after the Christchurch mosque attacks, a court has heard.
A High Court justice is this week hearing an argument over gun reform in New Zealand, which not only led to the gun buyback, but also to certain types of ammunition being banned.
The Government “extinguished all property rights of any kind” for gun owners when it brought in gun law reform last year, a court has heard.
In fact, the government attorneys argued that not only did the government not have an obligation to compensate gun owners for their confiscated ammunition, they didn’t need to compensate gun owners for their confiscated firearms as well.
Crown lawyer Austin Powell this morning said the Government’s decision to buy guns back from owners was a choice by Parliament, “because politically is seemed unfair to say to what had been law-abiding firearms owners who had purchased their firearms in good faith that you have to surrender them for destruction”.
He said there was no obligation for compensation, because compensation was only required when property was acquired by the Government for a purpose.
“If the property is taken for a purpose it is an acquisition and it must be compensated, and in New Zealand law, most often, it is.”
If there was no purpose to ordering New Zealanders to hand over their banned firearms and ammunition, then why did the government order them to do so? The supposed purpose of the government acquiring the private property of gun owners was public safety. Now the government is claiming the power to seize any property it wants, as long as they ban possession of that property first.
A spokeswoman for the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners says the government’s position is absurd, and notes that the action was taken without any vote by Parliament.
“The Order in Council prohibiting these classes of ammunition did not face the scrutiny of Parliament but has had significant financial repercussions for law-abiding people. Because this Order did not go through Parliament, there was no opportunity for the licenced firearm owning community to make submissions, and we have therefore been forced to take the matter to court.”
McKee says compensation should have been part of the reform in the first place.
“Minister Nash had the power to introduce a compensation scheme just as he had done for firearms. But he chose not to and has left thousands of everyday hunters and shooters picking up the bill. Kiwis expect a fair go from their government – if they stop you using your property, we rightfully expect compensation.”
“If the Government wins this case, it will set a very dangerous precedent for New Zealand. It will mean future governments will be able to deny the value of private property either by ordering its destruction or confiscation, meaning individual New Zealanders would have to wear the loss.”
Remember, there is no right to keep and bear arms enshrined in New Zealand’s constitution, so gun owners can’t rely on the protection of the Second Amendment. In New Zealand, owning a gun is a privilege, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made clear. This legal fight isn’t about the right to own a firearm or ammunition, but the right to own property of any kind. Can the New Zealand government simply take possession of whatever property it’s declared illegal to own? If so, McKee is right, and it’s not just gun ownership that would be a privilege in the country. Property rights in general would become property privileges, and a supposedly free society would be revealed as an authoritarian state.