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Gun Control Coalition Renews Gun Law Reform

The Coalition for Gun Control (CGC) is renewing its quest for tighter gun laws in New Zealand.

"The recent shooting incident in Dunedin involving an eight year old boy's use of .22 rifle gives us a chilling reminder of just how easy it can be for guns to get into the wrong hands and the potential for tragedy that can follow" says a CGC spokesperson, Marion Hancock.

New Zealand's gun control laws are lax in comparison with most other developed nations and are second only to those in the United States.

The 1997 Thorp report which was commissioned by the then National government, cost the nation $1 million and took the retired High Court judge a year to complete. It produced a number of key recommendations to make major changes to existing gun laws.

This included tightened provisions for vetting and licensing of gun owners with more stingent rules for secure storage. It also recommended a three year licensing period for gun owners instead of the current ten years - in other countries such Australia, Canada and the U.K. there is a five year license period.

A key recommendation was that all firearms be registered to their owners in addition to owner licensing.

"Individual registration of firearms is the norm in other developed countries (apart from the U.S.) It's regarded by police and the public health community in these countries as the mainstay of effective gun control and therefore the control of incidents of gun-related injury and death.

"Having a register of all guns would make owners much more accountable for them. They would know that a missing firearm could be traced back to them and that would provide a clear incentive to lock up their guns securely.

"A register would also be very helpful to the Police as a starting point to trace guns used in a crime. A 1982 survey, conducted when NZ Police did still maintain a firearms register, showed that 67% of police officers questioned found it helpful in apprehending an offender." says Ms Hancock

The Labour government did introduce a bill to amend the law during its first term of office but it was strongly opposed by some gun owners and did not proceed. Last year another bill to tighten our gun laws was said by the government to be forthcoming but it has yet to appear.

"It took the Port Arthur massacre to change the Australian laws and Dunblane to change those in the UK. We don't need to wait for another similar tragedy to occur here before changes are made. Surveys have shown that there's overwhelming public support for tighter gun laws and it's high time the government moved to implement them. To quote a Canadian Chief of Police (P. Sangalo in Calgary) 'When opponents pretend that controls on rifles and shotguns aren't relevant in the fight against crime, they're simply ignoring the facts'."

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