Sunday, December 3, 2023

Want a gun … become an actor

Neal Wallace
A fifth of applications from firearms licence holders seeking approval to continue using now-banned semi-automatic weapons for pest control have been declined but actors can be armed.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Police say 183 applications to continue using the firearms for pest control were approved by November 11, 99 are still being processed and 69 have been refused.

No applications from firearm collectors, those involved in the theatre or dealers have been declined though some applications are still being considered.

Farmers who have previously been allowed to use the now-banned semi-automatic weapons for pest control say they are being refused because they don’t meet tougher thresholds in the Arms Act, introduced in April after the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Police confirmed applications were declined for not meeting the requirements of the new law.

“None of these refusals are due to the applicants’ lack of fit and proper status to be a firearms licence holder, simply that their applications did not meet the requirements of the Arms Act, sections 4A (1) and 30B,” police said.

Federated Farmers board member Miles Anderson says the legislation does not reflect the realities of on-farm pest control nor the limitations of a bolt action weapon when confronted with multiple pest targets.

“If you have got 30 or 40 wallabies in a paddock you might get one or two shots away before the rest are gone.”

Some farmers are killing 50,000 rabbits a year and need rapid-fire firearms while Anderson says poisoning has significant management implications if done too often.

The police data shows 100 firearms collectors have been approved and 347 are pending, 15 have been approved for theatrical reasons with a further 19 pending and 38 firearms dealers have been approved with 47 under consideration.

A police spokesperson says the threshold to hold what is known as a P endorsement is high because it allows a firearms licence holder to possess a now-prohibited item.

The Act has a much narrower definition and requires a specific reason for an endorsement to be granted.

Endorsements are limited to a person employed or engaged by the Department of Conservation to control wild animals or pests or someone with a concession granted by the Minister of Conservation to do wild animal recovery operations or who is employed by an agency under the Biosecurity Act to control wild animals or pests.

An endorsement is also available to someone who runs or is an employee of a pest control business.

To qualify an applicant must provide evidence of their pest control business and employment including existing and future contracts and proof it is their primary or significant income source.

The Act prescribes pests as wild deer, chamois, tahr, wild pigs, wild goats, wallaby, feral rabbits, feral hares and Canada geese.

In its report to Parliament in April the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee said it intentionally recommended a narrow exemption range limited to specialist pest control businesses or those working for DOC.

“However, these exemptions would not cover pest control on private land, such as farms or non-conservation Crown land.

“We consider that there would be some narrow circumstances where use of a prohibited firearm was absolutely necessary to carry out pest control on private land or non-conservation Crown land for conservation, environmental or economic reasons.”

It recommended a narrow exemption range to allow private landowners to use banned firearms for pest control, which could still enable the removal of most semi-automatic firearms from circulation.

Anderson says the federation is still pushing the Government to grant exemptions for farmers who need now-banned weapons for pest control but is yet to receive an answer.

He warns that even if granted, it will apply after the December 20 deadline when banned weapons will be illegal and should be surrendered to the police.

So weapons should be handed in and if the Government grants an exemption farmers can buy new ones.

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