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Royal Commission Of Inquiry Sidesteps Firearms Law Review On Government’s Instruction

The New Zealand Deerstalkers Association says the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques on 15 March 2019 has left major questions unanswered because it was too restricted by its Terms of Reference.

NZDA Chief Executive, Gwyn Thurlow, says these deliberate restrictions prevented the Royal Commission conducting a proper wide ranging probe into the terrorist attack.

“The Terms of Reference specifically directed the Commission not to inquire into amendments to firearms legislation and it is interesting that in its report, the Commission pointedly says that this restricted the scope of investigations and affected the recommendations it might have otherwise made," Mr Thurlow says.

“The Commission did point out that by international standards, New Zealand had a strict firearm licensing system but Police and their firearms staff were underfunded, not sufficiently trained, and failed to administer the existing law, which led to the foreign terrorist acquiring illegal firearms.

“Ultimately, the report shows it was not the firearms laws and process that lead to the terrorist attack, it was a cumulative failure by Police to administer and implement the law and processes that were already in place.”

Gwyn Thurlow says this does not bode well for the new firearm laws brought in following the terror attack.

"Now Police have a far more complex law to administer, but will it make New Zealanders safer and can Police actually make the new laws work?," Mr Thurlow asks.

"The new Arms Act focuses heavily on enforcing the compliance of law-abiding licenced hunters and firearms owners and their organisations yet does relatively little to address the illegal use and possession of firearms by criminals.

"As a result, a firearms register is not going to achieve its stated objectives, will not be accurate, will be expensive to administer, and ultimately fail to be fit for purpose. It is people, the licence holders, who should be properly vetted and screened."

Gwyn Thurlow says the Government has an obligation to listen to the firearms owner organisations, like NZDA and Council of Licenced Firearms Owners, and take their advice.

“NZDA has concerns that licenced firearms owners will continue to be marginalised and that the public’s opinion has turned unfairly against legitimate firearms owners due to the way Government and Police have portrayed them.

“Our members are hunters and shooters who legitimately and safely use firearms for sport shooting and gathering food. Our members are legitimate licenced firearms owners who were turned on and demonised by Government, politicians, Police and media.

Gwyn Thurlow says, “Firearm owners are not opposed to sensible arms laws. The NZDA believes a good law encourages and assists compliance, rather than oppressing, alienating and unreasonably regulating significant parts of the community.

"Unfortunately, the overall punitive nature of the new Act targets only the law abiding by increasing the bureaucracy and cost of getting and holding a firearms licence while introducing new barriers all with no demonstrable improvement in public safety.

"All New Zealand deserves good, strong laws which ensure public safety, not unreasonable, punitive and overly bureaucratic window dressing, which is what we have been left with.

"We don’t believe the Royal Commission should have been prevented from examining this issue."

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