- Date published:
5:35 am, March 21st, 2019 - 185 comments
Categories: chris bishop, john banks, paula bennett, Politics, Simon Bridges, stuart nash, winston peters - Tags: Aramoana, gun control, gun lobby, guns, MSSA, nra, select committee
Passing stringent gun controls is far from a knee-jerk reaction to the Christchurch massacre – our politicians of all stripes have procrastinated over this ever since the 1990 Aramoana massacre.
This blood-on-their-hands dithering contrasts with Australia’s decisive action following the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, when military-style semi-automatic and automatic weapons (MSSAs) were banned together with a buy-back of existing weapons. They have had no massacre since.
In Christchurch, 50 have been murdered and more than that wounded by one deluded Australian psychopath who has taken advantage of lax laws here, possibly doing it here because it would have been far harder there.
Politicians like National’s Paula Bennett, NZ First’s Winston Peters, Labour’s Stuart Nash and ACT’s Stephen Franks and David Seymour should all have difficulty looking in the mirror.
Police Minister Nash even backed then his predecessor, Bennett, in 2017 in rejecting 13 of the 20 recommendations on gun control by the Law and Order Select Committee.
“When I was the Opposition Police Spokesman, I learned the hard way that firearms owners are passionate about their sport – and their guns,” Nash commented. As well as kowtowing to gun lobby, Nash has similarly bowed to the fishing lobby over cameras on commercial fishing trawlers.
Make no mistake, the gun lobby, backed by many of the 240,000-odd gun owners, are a powerful lobby. They are also backed by the ultimate lobby group, the US NRA, which keeps a close eye on Aotearoa, frequently issuing statements as they have since the Christchurch massacre.
The NRA was one of the loudest voices opposing Australia’s MSSA ban.
Commenting on the 2017 select committee report, the NRA said “the report makes the case for extreme new gun controls aimed at New Zealand’s approximately 242,056 law-abiding gun owners. The onerous recommendations impact nearly every aspect of gun ownership in the country.”
The NRA took issue with a government document that stated owning a gun was special privilege rather than a right. NRA said the “natural right of self defence” was inherent to all peoples.
Because the US is such an outlier among developed nations on gun control, the NRA is desperate to keep in the fold the two other countries with relatively lax gun regulations – New Zealand and Canada – so its position is not seen as the absurdity that it is.
In fact, the 13 proposals recommended by the Select Committee but rejected by Bennett were not only not extreme they did not include the most basic sensible control measure of all – the banning of MSSAs.
The following is what was rejected and accepted:
The 2017 rejections of the year-long Law and Order Select Committee recommendations was actually par for the course by our politicians who have been got at by gun owners, who politically behave similarly to other single-issue activists like anti-abortionists, anti-vaxxers or anti-1080ists.
Ever since Aramoana, when then Police Minister John Banks boasted he would outlaw “Rambo” style weapons, politicians have promised but failed to deliver mainly because they have been got at. The actual gun reform National delivered in 1992 was wet in the extreme- limited to tightening mail orders and storage and slightly tightening licensing. Rambo guns and pistols were not outlawed but required an endorsement on a licence.
After two police shootings in 1995, the government ordered an independent report into guns by former judge Thomas Thorp. His comprehensive 1997 report advocated many sensible restrictions and the establishment of a Firearms Authority that would oversee much stricter licencing. The National government actually introduced an Arms Amendment Bill in 1999 but the new Helen Clark government succumbed to the activists’ pressure and let it lapse.
Another Arms Amendment Bill was again introduced in 2005, but languished until it was dismissed in 2012.
Dominion Post reporter Andrea Vance, late last year in previewing Nash’s latest attempt to refresh the 1983 Arms Act noted that every year since 2010 government proposals for changes to gun legislation reform have been drawn up and quietly dropped.
But there is no question that the public mood now is for action and the die-hards will be left in the cold.
National police spokesman Chris Bishop, who late last year set up 30 “gun forums” to oppose the Nash’s proposed changes and push some dog whistle wedge politics, said there had been a perceptible shift in the public mood since the events of Friday.
His leader, Simon Bridges has definitely thrown in the towel. “The world has changed,” he perceptibly noted. He has met with Nash and says he will co-operate in principle. Asked if would support a ban on MSSAs, he said: “I think it would be remarkable to justify any other position, frankly.”
Asked where that left farmers and the like, Bridges said: “We are going to do the right thing.”
NZ First leader Winston Peters was less forthright, but accepted he would also have to cave on this issue. It was a coalition government decision he said.
Pro-gun lobby group Fish & Game, which represents 150,000 anglers and game bird hunters, supports gun reform and said military-style weapons should never have been allowed to be sold here. CEO Martin Taylor said there is no legitimate recreational hunting use for such weapons.
Fish & Game said it would support a gun magazine limit of 2-3 shots.
So what should this latest gun law reform include? At the very least it should include all the 13 recommendations of the 2017 Law & Order committee that were not passed. It should at its heart included:
(Simon Louisson reported for The Wall Street Journal, AP Dow Jones Newswires, New Zealand Press Association and Reuters and briefly was a political and media adviser to the Green Party.)