As we approach the anniversary of the Christchurch massacre you would hope that our politicians had decided to put politics aside and settled on meaningful law changes so that the chances of a deranged shooter killing people on the basis of their religion was reduced.
As pointed out by Mark Daalder at Newsroom National wants to change one of the more important elements of the proposed law changes, the test to be applied by the police when determining if someone passed the good character test when seeking a gun licence.
From the article:
In a Supplementary Order Paper submitted on the Government’s Arms Legislation Bill, National’s Police spokesperson Brett Hudson proposes that a test for violent and extremist tendencies should only be applied to people who have been “convicted of an offence under the Human Rights Act 1993 or the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 relating to violent, hateful, or extremist speech or behaviour”.
However, Gun Control NZ’s Nik Green says this would allow many extremists to obtain a firearms license, pointing to the fact that no one in New Zealand has been convicted of such an offense under the Human Rights Act.
Police Minister Stuart Nash said Hudson’s SOP was “very concerning. I do not know why the Nats are not supporting this because it takes guns off gangs and it’s much tougher penalties for gun crime.”
As Daalder points out there have been no convictions under the Human Rights Act that would qualify and convictions under the Harmful Digital Communications Act are difficult to obtain and quite rare.
And the following persons would theoretically not be caught by National’s proposal:
In a minority report in the report back of the Bill National said this:
National Party members do not support this bill. We believe it is improperly targeted and that this firearms reform should be focused on genuine criminal activity and gangs.
This bill does not do that. Instead it places greater responsibility, regulation, and costs on individuals and groups who already obey the law.
To the National Party members, the general policy thrust of this bill appears to be predicated on the notion that applying some more rules to people who already follow the law will somehow make people safer. That flies in the face not only of evidence we received on this bill, but also the evidence received by the select committee inquiry into the illegal possession of firearms in 2016/17.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to convert this issue into a tough on gangs issue. The Christchurch shooter was not a patched gang member and would not have been caught by this approach.
The proposed provision which Hudson is addressing is very wide. It says that the Police may (as opposed to shall) find that a person is not a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence if that person “has been is charged with or has been convicted of an offence in New Zealand or overseas that is punishable by a term of imprisonment (including, but not limited to, an offence involving violence, drugs, or alcohol)”.
People convicted of drunk driving, depositing dangerous litter and petty shoplifting would be caught. But the section says “may” and “fit and proper person” is not defined in the Act. It is something the police may take into account when assessing someone’s suitability for a gun licence and presumably do already. The Regulatory Impact Analysis for the Bill makes it clear that the provision is partial codification of the current fit and proper person requirement.
The essential point must be that gun ownership and usage is not a right. Just like cars guns can do a lot of damage and being granted the privilege to operate one should be subject to rigorous consideration. Of course current charges and convictions of whatever sort should be taken into account. And if they relate to violence or a lack of control on the part of the applicant then they should be given a lot of weight.
It is not just National who are playing politics with the bill. NZ First is also seeking support at the margins of the electorate to justify meddling in what should be a consensus decision.
From Collette Devlin at Stuff:
The Labour party is struggling to get support to pass a new gun law as NZ First continues to dig its heels in.
The Arms Legislation Bill passed its second reading last month but NZ First MP Ron Mark signalled the party was moving away from supporting core aspects of the Bill, saying the caucus had some reservations.
While he would not go into detail, Mark told Stuff this week there was still “a lot of water to go under the bridge right now”.
The bill, which includes a firearms registry, harsher penalties, and a warning system to show if a person is a fit and proper person to hold a firearms licence, had been expected to come back to Parliament this week but has been bumped down the order list.
Mark said he was still having “constructive conversations’ with Police Minister Stuart Nash on the issues the party wanted to settle.
The party was looking for a pragmatic way through that protected the rights and privileges of legitimate firearms owners, he told the House last month.
One of those was resolving the question of whether or not police should continue to administer firearms law and a “strong argument” for the need for an arms authority that takes that statutory responsibility.
There were also further conversations to be had around farmers who had problems with pest control and around sporting shooters.
A separate entity being established is bizarre. The police would continue to handle the day to day management of the Act. Why separate obligations? Do we really need another Worksafe?
As for farmers when Federated Farmers say that the ban will not be popular but is needed who would argue to the contrary? Especially when they said “… 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.”
And I am struggling to understand what the problem for sport shooters is. If it is more red tape for the sort of club that the Christchurch shooter belonged to then let there be more red tape.
If it is that their ability to enter into competitions will be affected as far as I can see the proposed changes do not affect olympic shooting sports.
Gun Control NZ gave this description of what was at stake in its submission on the Bill:
The Regulatory Impact Statement analyses this issue in some depth. Our main comment is that the shooters affected by these changes do not compete in the Olympics or Commonwealth Games. The shooters affected are those who partake in the euphemistically named “Practical Shooting”. “Practical shooting” is better described as combat shooting. Here is a description of practical shooting by Philip Alpers:
11 “Practical” shooting is almost the complete opposite of traditional target shooting sports. Competitors conduct their activities over a “run-and-gun” obstacle course where they face a variety of “real-world” or “practical” shoot/don’t shoot situations, such as firing at the human silhouette of a “hostage-taker” while sparing the “hostage.” Unlike traditional target sports, the weapons used are most often large caliber pistols, assault rifles, and riot shotguns. And although participants use the more innocuous term “practical” when dealing with the general public, among enthusiasts routinely refer to their pastime as “combat” or “tactical” shooting.
In a typical “course of fire,” contestants begin with a rapid draw from a holster, and are then timed as they run, crawl, and sometimes climb through a shoot-’em-up scenario, all while firing at human-scaled head-and-torso targets. Human targets intended to be shot are often referred to as “bad guys.” “No-shoot” targets are often called “hostages.” The highest scores are awarded to “head shots” and “heart shots” because of their heightened lethality, with points awarded for speed of shooting as much as for accuracy.
I do not think the sporting world would be a poorer place if this sort of “sporting” activity was frustrated.
The gun registry is one of the most important of changes. It is hard to understand why National is opposing it given the important contributions it would make to our collective safety.
All in all I am afraid I have no sympathy for the arguments of the gun nuts. There is no right to bear arms. It is a privilege that can and should be regulated for the public good. And NZ First’s and National’s holding up this important reform so they can seek support of those at the margin of public opinion is base.
Parliament should get on with it. And we should aim for a March 15 passage date. The victims of the Christchurch Massacre and their families deserve nothing less.