NZ: trouble ahead for Ardern’s gun laws
As the dust among the grief settles somewhat in NZ following the Christchurch Mosque shooting, gun owners are beginning to understand what their PM has in store with her new controls. Ardern’s leap to action over gun laws has won her world wide approbation but like all political knee-jerk reactions practicality is the stick in the mud. Ardern will soon find out that the old gun possession laws will make it virtually impossible to know who owns what and how many.
On the outskirts of Christchurch, the gates of the gun clubs are locked — closed until further notice.n”I don’t think we’re the most popular people in New Zealand right now,” one gun club president told me. Another president I spoke to was more blunt.
New Zealand shooters’ lobby gearing up to fight Jacinda Ardern’s gun laws in wake of Christchurch massacre
“We’re suffering for something that isn’t our f***ing fault,” he said.
Neither wished to be identified.
In the days since Jacinda Ardern announced sweeping changes to New Zealand’s gun laws, the momentum for change has seemed unstoppable.
Immediately after she ended her media conference, the opposition National Party promised its support; later that afternoon, the NZ Federated Farmers (NZFF) also gave their backing.
“This will not be popular among some of our members,” NZFF spokesman Miles Anderson said.
“But a clampdown is the responsible path to take to try to ensure we’re never witness to this kind of tragedy on our shores again.”
But now, the gun lobby is mobilising. And it’s clear that these gun reforms will not pass without a fight — just as happened in Australia in 1996 after the Port Arthur massacre.
Jacinda Ardern appears to have studied that history. She wants the laws passed through Parliament in less than three weeks.
The gun lobby’s first battle is to slow that process down.
“This is being pushed through so fast,” said Nicole McKee, the spokesperson for New Zealand’s Council of Licensed Firearm Owners (COLFO).
COLFO, along with a number of other firearms organisations in New Zealand, is supporting a petition calling on the government to allow more time for public consultations.
“We support effective changes that will prevent a terrorist attack from happening in New Zealand again,” Ms McKee said
“What we say is we need more detail in order to make a more considered position, [and] a thorough investigation so we can see what went so terribly wrong.”
The head of the NZ Police Association, Chris Cahill, says that’s a standard stalling tactic of the gun lobby.
“Australia struck this when John Howard made his reforms,” he said.
“The key then was acting quickly before they could mobilise and scare politicians away. That’s why we need to do the same.”
The most recent attempt to reform New Zealand’s gun laws was two years ago.
But there have been inquiries and recommendations going back to 1992, when gun laws were tightened after 13 people were killed in a massacre in the town of Aramoana in November, 1990.
“I have spoken to politicians who after the 2016 select committee recommendations said they had never been lobbied as hard on an issue. And it stunned and surprised them,” Mr Cahill said.
This week, former NZ Police Minister Judith Collins told Nine Newspapers she had been subjected to intense lobbying with material sourced from America’s powerful National Rifle Association during her failed attempts to change gun laws.
Ms McKee says COLFO has received no offers of political or financial support from the NRA — although it did receive a letter of condolence after the Christchurch shootings.
Chris Cahill says the NRA’s fingerprints have been on the previous successful campaigns to stop gun law reforms in New Zealand.
“We certainly know that NRA representatives have previously visited New Zealand,” he said.
“We know the rhetoric that we see from some quarters is exactly that of the NRA. And when you go on online forums, you clearly see people quoting material directly from the NRA.
“They have got that same idea — don’t give an inch, or they will take the guns off them. And it’s just not the case.”
Ms McKee says the interim ban on semi-automatic weapon sales effectively stops another terror attack from happening — which means there’s time for more consultation
But when the ABC visited Christchurch retailer Gun City on Saturday, assault rifle accessories were still on the shelves, including speed loaders for AR-15 magazines.
Nicole McKee says COLFO is also concerned that legitimate gun owners are being left out of the debate.
“We have a large rural community that use firearms,” she said.
“They don’t have internet access. They don’t have email access.”
Chris Cahill says he believes that this time, gun reform will succeed.
“I think this week has been a shock to the majority of New Zealanders who just didn’t realise the wide variety and vast numbers of firearms available in New Zealand,” he said.
“And they certainly didn’t realise that we had no registry that allows us to know exactly what those numbers are.
“The idea that a 16-year-old boy can go into a gun shop and buy an AR-15 assault rifle is just abhorrent to most New Zealanders, now that they have learned about it.”