New Zealand Bans Most Semi-Automatic Rifles; OKs Confiscation

April 10, 2019

By

Matthew Hoy

The New Zealand parliament voted today, 119-1, to ban most semi-automatic rifles in that country and institute a confiscation program to collect the now-banned firearms.

The new law came in the wake of mass shootings at two mosques in Christchurch that left 50 dead.

We are ultimately here because 50 people died, and they do not have a voice," [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] told parliament Wednesday. "We in this house are their voice, and today, we have used that voice wisely."
Ardern also said that a buyback scheme would ensure that gun owners would not lose out financially.

Though called a "buyback" program, the New Zealand government never owned any of the rifles they'll be confiscating in the first place. New Zealanders who fail to turn in their firearms face up to three years in prison and a $4,000 (NZ) fine.

There are currently 245,000 firearms licenses in circulation in New Zealand, according to the government, and the total number of firearms is estimated to be about 1.2 to 1.5 million.

A similar ban in Australia in the wake of a shooting massacre there also resulted in a ban on many firearms, but that country's confiscation program was not as successful as many would have hoped.

Australia’s program netted, at the low end, 650,000 guns, and at the high end, a million. That was approximately a fifth to a third of Australian firearms.

Will not comply with ban

One group has already said they will not comply, the Mongrel's Mob gang.

Gang members will not be handing in their guns following the law reform announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, a Mongrel Mob leader has said.

Sonny Fatu, president of the Waikato branch of the Mongrel Mob, said that, while some members of the gang may have illegal guns, they will not be handing them in as they are necessary to their protection.

"Will gangs get rid of their weapons? No. Because of who we are, we can't guarantee our own safety," he told Stuff.

He admitted many of the gang's estimated 1000 associates hold illegal firearms but says they should be trusted not to harm innocent people.

"It's not in our culture to inflict harm on innocent people like what happened in Christchurch," Fatu said.

The one who voted 'no'

David Seymour of the politically "right" (for New Zealand's political spectrum) ACT Party was the lone dissenting vote. While not opposed to new firearms regulations in theory, Seymour attacked certain aspects of the law and the parliament's need to be seen having done something in the wake of the massacre.

I rise on behalf of the ACT Party in opposition to this bill, but not in opposition to changing our gun laws. I want to pay tribute to those victims of our nation's tragedy of 15 March; it is for them that our gun laws must change, because it is not sustainable to have a set of laws where such a deranged individual can get their hands on such lethal weapons with almost nobody knowing about it. That much is certain, and that much is consensus in this House of Parliament, and almost up and down the entire length of this country. However, this bill is not an attempt to improve public safety; it is an exercise in political theatre.

People might ask themselves: "What was the rush and what was the hurry?" Other than the need to be seen to be doing something, there was none. The fact is that, unlike the Prime Minister, who asked, "Well, is it better to do nothing?", I believe that this bill may end up being worse than nothing.

...
We could not find, in the select committee, what the officials' estimates of the success of the gun buy-back might be. So what will members of this House say when we get to the end of the amnesty period this September, and we find that our gun buy-back has been no more successful than the Australian one? One that found that between 40 and 80 percent—just as our Prime Minister couldn't say, today, how many guns there are in New Zealand, the Australians didn't know either—of these dangerous weapons have been handed in, and they've been handed in by the people who are the law-abiding ones. We could find ourselves with a bigger black market in dangerous semi-automatic weapons than ever outside any regulatory cordon whatsoever. Why might that be? Well, one good reason is that today, in the eleventh hour—such is the rush of this process—the Government decided that they would reward people with compensation if their weapons were owned legally, but they wouldn't offer compensation for people who hand in illegal weapons. That is how insane the outcomes of this process are.

That is to say nothing—maybe it's a law that won't work—about the way it has been gone about; to say nothing of the truncated select committee process, which gave no serious consideration to improving the law, didn't consider any other options such as upgrading licensing, didn't allow the committee to consider what the success of the buy-back might be. It simply said, "There is urgency, we must act, we're going to do this anyway."

This ban will do little to rid the country of scary black rifles. The mostly peaceful nation will continue to be mostly peaceful with the only difference being that it will be more difficult for the innocent and law-abiding to protect themselves.

The Mongrel Mob will continue to get along just fine.

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