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Arms Amendment Bill: Submission summary

Peace Movement Aotearoa

4 April 2019

Below is a summary of our submission to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee on the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill, submitted yesterday.

A. Introduction

Gun control has been a focus of Peace Movement Aotearoa’s work since our inception, and is widely supported by our member and supporting organisations and individuals. We have campaigned over the past twenty two years for the recommendations of the 1997 ‘Review of Firearms Control in New Zealand’ report by Justice Thomas Thorp (Thorp report) to be actioned, and worked on other gun control initiatives here and in the Pacific - most recently on the development of policy around firearms in New Zealand schools last year.

We were pleased that the government’s response to the mass shooting murders in Christchurch included promptly instituting a moratorium on semi-automatic weapons of the type used, and the clear commitment to more effective gun control as one of the changes necessary to reduce the chance of such a tragedy occurring again in future.

However, we are concerned at the extremely restricted time allowed for written submissions and that oral submissions will only be heard for one day. While we acknowledge issues around gun control have been discussed in parliament since the Thorp report, and we certainly support the urgent need for effective gun control, the specific provisions of this legislation have not previously been discussed. Some of our member groups who wished to make a submission on the Bill have been in touch to say they simply do not have the capacity to do so in such a short period of time. Even a period of one week for written submissions, followed by two weeks of oral hearings, would have ensured prompt enactment of this legislation, while defusing some of the tensions around undue haste.

We appreciate these initial changes are focused on banning and restricting some semi-automatic weapons, but we urge you to include as many measures as possible as outlined in our checklist for effective gun control (section C below) at this point in time, and to recommend the others be instituted as soon as possible.

B. Comments on the Bill

Due to the limited time frame, we have not had the chance to fully consider the detail of this Bill, but there are two matters that we wish to comment on.

Firstly, we are concerned that shotguns, including pump-action shotguns, that are capable of firing up to five cartridges before re-loading is required, and firearms that are capable of firing up to ten 0.22 calibre or less rimfire cartridges before re-loading is required, appear to be excluded from any form of restriction.

It is our view that any semi-automatic weapon not included in the prohibition and any weapon - regardless of calibre - that can fire more than two shots before re-loading is required, must be re-classified to require an ‘E’ category license endorsement. This additional licensing requirement would contribute to public safety but would not be an undue burden on responsible firearm owners.

Secondly, with regard to section 30B.2, we can see no reason whatsoever why a person making a broadcast or producing or staging a play would need a prohibited weapon, when computer-generated image / images or an imitation firearm would suffice. With regard to an exemption for “filming a cinematic production or television film or making a video recording”, we are not convinced that a prohibited weapon is necessary for these purposes either, but if it is deemed that it is, then we suggest that provision specifically includes a requirement that only blank ammunition is to be used.

C. Other measures for effective gun control

From our experience, firearms lobby groups have had an undue influence on political decision-making around gun control since 1997, therefore - going forward - we urge you to prioritise public safety above such vested interests and to put in place the strongest gun control measures possible, while still permitting those engaged in legitimate hunting, pest control or sports shooting to continue their activities in a manner consistent with public safety.

Last month, we prepared a ‘Checklist for effective gun control in Aotearoa New Zealand’ for our members and supporters, which we have copied below for your information.

In addition to measures that have now been wholly or partly implemented, the checklist includes points for the short term around: ammunition purchases; a register of all firearms; a reduced period of time for re-licensing firearm owners; permanent disabling of all restricted weapons such as privately held machine guns; stricter provisions for license vetting, licensing, and gun storage; and other recommendations made in the Thorp report such as the establishment of a fully resourced Independent Firearms Agency.

In the longer term, measures that could be usefully be considered include: a review of the 2018 policy on firearms in schools, which was unduly influenced by the large proportion of firearms lobbyists and others with vested interests in promoting firearms on the Ministry of Education ‘Health and Safety Sector Reference Group’; a ban on all advertising of, promotion of and sponsorship involving firearms, regardless of whether the firearm is banned or restricted, that is aimed at children or includes images of children; and provision for unannounced visits to all firearm license holders to check storage arrangements and any other issues considered important for public safety.

The full checklist is available at https://www.facebook.com/notes/peace-movement-aotearoa/a-checklist-for-effective-gun-control-in-aotearoa-new-zealand/2122513954462629 and formatted for printing at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/gun-control-checklist.pdf

This summary is available online at https://www.facebook.com/notes/peace-movement-aotearoa/arms-amendment-bill-submission-summary/2142890572424967/

ends

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