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Is steel shot now outlawed? Our lawyers respond to F&G

This afternoon Fish & Game posted a public statement responding to my email to supporters this morning – specifically rejecting our claim that steel shot is now deemed "enhanced penetration ammunition" and therefore possession of such could result in conviction and up to two years in prison.

Fish & Game claim that we (and the ACT Party’s David Seymour) are wrong in our interpretation.

We have asked our Wellington legal experts, Franks Ogilvie, to comment on the matter. They said:

“Fish & Game’s response is surprising. We wish the law was what Fish & Game claim, but it simply isn’t. It appears they have not bothered to read our letter to Police Minister Stuart Nash or sought their own legal advice. We’ve asked the Minister to change the law so that it is along the lines Fish & Game state – indeed what they say is simply repeating what the Police claim and may now wish the Order said.

Of course, for practical purposes people can take comfort they are unlikely to be prosecuted if the Police say they won’t.

But that is not the point. The law is what Parliament passes, and the Governor-General signs. Those disciplines are fundamental to the difference between the Police determining what the law of the land is (a police state), or living under the Rule of Law.

For those interested in detail, the Order has no exclusion for shotgun ammunition. It should. There is nothing confining the prohibition to rifle bullets. There should be. There is no condition that it applies only to bullets intended to penetrate armour. That restriction too should be there. Perhaps Fish & Game are confusing our concerns with the definition of ‘Multi-projectile ammunition' in the same Order (which does specifically exclude shotgun ammunition). That exclusion does not apply to the definition of ‘enhanced penetration ammunition’. That appears to be the key error Police, and the Minister, have made.

We made it plain that the Order would not have been intended to cover shotgun cartridges. We know the Police website now says it does not. But as the law is written, it does.

The point of the alert to supporters, and to the Minister, was to pick just one example of the Police making things up as they go along. On matters where the penalty is up to two years in prison, it is reasonable to expect a much higher standard. The Minister should swallow embarrassment and fix the mistakes, not have groups like Fish & Game try to defend the indefensible with misinformation.

Our respect for Police and our liberties depend on the Police being loyal servants of the law, whatever they think of it – not rulers able to decide what they want it to say.

There has been similar Police invention over the moratorium on criminal liability for possessing the (badly defined) prohibited ammunition. Police said it expired on 30 September, but that if people reported what they have, it will continue until the ammunition is collected by Police. That is not what Regulation 28Z says. As written, from 1 October all people who hold it are liable to two years in prison. The Police can’t waive that. The Order in Council is so badly written that Police have been pretending to have powers the regulation does not give them. We raised that with the Minister only indirectly, because it is not in anyone’s interests to have the criminal liability tested before the Minister has corrected the errors.

Fish & Game should apologise, and in the interests of those they claim to represent, join in COLFO's request that the Minister correct the mistakes. That way, Fish & Game's assurances would have legal backing.”

I think it is really disappointing that Fish & Game have jumped in like this, but they are probably simply relying on the Police’s assurances, something we should all be entitled to do.

But pointing out the errors, and taking-on the Government where it has, frankly, got something badly wrong, is precisely what is needed. It is why we started this campaign and have asked people to crowdfund this effort.

Fish & Game say, that "this is a time when firearms groups should be working together for the public good". We totally agree.

Thank you for your support,

Nicole.


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