Friday, December 8, 2023

More restrictions in new gun law

Neal Wallace
A proposed new firearms register will require licence holders to constantly update the movement of weapons and ammunition, a firearms lobby group warns.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Council of Licensed Firearms Owners Association describes the proposed regulations on firearms while they are being moved or loaned as onerous and devoid of practical reality.

“What this law is actually doing is looking at the possession of firearms and ammunition not the ownership,” spokeswoman Nicole McKee said.

Legal advice the association got on the wording in the draft said the law obliges hunters heading to the bush to notify the firearms register of where they are taking their firearm and for how long.

Should that destination change that also has to be notified to the register.

Transporting a firearm to assist with pest control or to euthanise an animal also means notifying the register of the movement and again when the weapon is returned to its primary storage place.

Similarly, lending a firearm to another licensed firearm owner requires notification and updating.

McKee says if a licensed firearm owner buys ammunition that is left in a car in the presence of an unlicensed person while the licence holder is absent that is a breach of the law.

“If she doesn’t have a licence she is deemed to be in illegal possession and liable to a fine of up to $10,000.”

Police have told the council they will look at each possession case on its merits and it won’t be blanket enforcement.

“If police say it is okay to break it because they will not prosecute then why have it written into law in the first place?

“We also question will police be encouraging people to break the law on their word that they are not going to prosecute?”

A police spokesman said police are not aware the department has told association it will not fully enforce the new law.

The police did not respond to association’s claims about register obligations saying it is not appropriate to do so while the legislation is before Parliament.

Previous media statements state the register is an online self-service model that will operate like the motor vehicle register.

It will hold the licence holder’s full name, date of birth, address and details of their licence number, any endorsements and details of firearms including storage, sales and purchases.

McKee believes the Government is rushing to have the new law on the statute books in time for the March 15 anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks but in doing so is trampling over the rights of and ignoring input from law-abiding firearms owners.

“They are pushing stuff through so fast they are not looking at the consequences.”

McKee says the last rewrite of the Arms Act legislation took two years. This is being pushed through in five months, including the Christmas recess, and will not include findings from the Royal Commission investigating the shootings.

Last week a new amendment was introduced under urgency which widens the net of firearms to be prohibited with the public given two weeks till November 29 to make submissions.

The latest amendment will prohibit AR-15 style .22LR sporting rifles, AR-15 style pump-action sporting rifles, pump-action shotguns and carbine chassis for pistols that allow shooters to compete in sporting events.

Writing in a forward to the Bill Police Minister Stuart Nash said a better balance is needed between the rights of legitimate firearms owners and the need to ensure those firearms are appropriately secured and managed.

“The amendments in the Bill will establish a regulatory regime that gets the balance right, making it harder for firearms to be in the wrong hands while making sure that the burden we place on lawful and legitimate owners of firearms is reasonable.”

He says information on the register will provide a greater oversight of the number and location of firearms while obliging licence holders to update and maintain information.

Meanwhile, the NZ Deerstalkers Association is backing a public awareness programme on the new laws that has started at events such as A&P shows.

But it has major reservations.

Association president Trevor Chappell says the real problem has been a lack of policing and enforcement of existing laws.

The requirement for club shooting ranges to be certified might mean some will close, which removes firearms safety training venues that have provided a service at no cost to the Government.

Warning: Don’t hang on

Time is running out for the surrender of illegal firearms and a farming leader is warning owners could be violating the law if they leave it too late.
The police buy-back of newly prohibited weapons and amnesty from prosecution for possessing prohibited firearms, parts and magazines ends on December 20.
Federated Farmers board member Miles Anderson fears some firearms owners could be holding out in the hope of a last-minute exemption letting them keep soon-to-be illegal weapons and parts.
Even if granted, an exemption is unlikely to apply in time for the December 20 deadline.
“I am urging people regardless how they feel about this policy to hand in their firearms, get the money and if there are exemptions then they can buy a replacement.”
Anderson says the federation is still pushing for an exemption for those who genuinely need semi-automatic firearms for pest control.
“I would love to say I can guarantee it is going to happen but I can’t.”
Latest police data shows 32,659 firearms and 120,045 parts have been collected at a cost to taxpayers of more than $62 million.
Two-thirds of the guns bought have been centrefire semi-automatics priced less than $10,000 and 18% are rifles capable of firing 11 rounds or more valued at less than $2000.
Anderson says farmers might not realise their lever-action weapons or parts might violate the new laws.
That includes magazines for .22 rifles that can hold 10 or more rounds and semi-automatic shotguns with a tubular magazine capable of holding more than five cartridges.
He urged farmers to hand their weapons in or seek advice from the police if unsure.

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