03/04/2019
Dieuwe de Boer
Opinion
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Constructive Criticism On The New Firearms Legislation

I am providing feedback on the proposed Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill, or "Tarrant's Law" for short, in honour of it's chief sponsor.

This bill will in its current state:

  • Prohibit the general population from legally owning semi-automatic rifles;
  • Ban a number of pump-action and lever-action firearms for no given reason, including most .22 calibre pump-action and lever-action rifles;
  • Result in no meaningful recovery of firearms from hostile parties such as gangs and criminal organisations;
  • Result in no meaningful improvement to public safety;
  • Provide excellent optics for politicians looking for international praise and future employment at the United Nations; and
  • Send a strong message to prospective terrorists that they can initiate change with their actions.

I oppose this legislation, because of its lack of public consultation and opportunistic exploitation of a tragedy to pass far reaching legislation that will not increase public safety. This bill makes a mockery of the democratic process.

Regardless, I believe it beneficial to make some recommendations to the committee on how they can improve this law to be less disastrous to the country.

Keeping in mind the stated goal of this bill to "ban common ownership of centrefire semi-automatic firearms", I recommend the following changes be made to the bill to prevent unintended negative consequences:

(Here is the full text of the legislation for reference.)

  • Clause 4(3), under "the definition of part", should be amended to not reference generic firearms parts that are interchangeable with other rifles - this includes sights, suppressors, and ammunition that are fairly commonly shared among all firearms platforms. These parts are not what makes a firearm semi-automatic and the wording risks banning large swathes of generic firearm parts. Clause 5(2C) already bans the functioning parts that make a firearm semi-automatic.
  • Clause 5 (2A(a)(i)(A)), under "meaning of prohibited firearm", should be amended to allow .22 calibre rifles to use 15 round magazines, as has been the standard previously. There is no reason to change this and only adds costs to the confiscation programme.
  • Clause 5 (2A(a)(ii) and 2A(a)(iii)), under "meaning of prohibited firearm", should be removed. These clauses add restrictions on pump-action shotguns in particular, when the entire purpose of the bill is to restrict semi-automatics.These clauses are made even more ridiculous by the fact that the previous clause exempts low-capacity semi-automatic shotguns and rimfire rifles. Why are pump-action shotguns being targeted? There is no reason given in the bill, because there isn't one.
  • Clause 5 (2A(b)), under "meaning of prohibited firearm", should be removed. The Governor-General via Order In Council should not be allowed to make a blanket ban on firearms. This clause would allow de facto banning of all firearms in New Zealand by executive order.
  • Clause 5 (2B(b)(i)(A)), under "meaning of prohibited magazine", should be amended to keep the rimfire cartridge limit for magazines at 15. There is no reason given to lower this to 10 rounds and it only adds addition costs to the confiscation programme.
  • Clause 5 (2B(b)(ii)), under "meaning of prohibited magazine", should be removed, or amended to a much higher limit like 15. As it stands, all .22 calibre pump-action and lever-action rifles with fixed tubular magazines will be banned, along with a number of centrefire lever-action rifles used in cowboy sports. There is no reason given for banning these and it only adds to the cost of the confiscation programme.
  • Clause 5 (2B(c)), under "meaning of prohibited magazine", should be removed. The Governor-General via Order In Council should not be allowed to make a blanket ban on magazines. This clause would allow de facto banning of all firearms in New Zealand by executive order.
  • Clause 5 (2D), under "meaning of prohibited ammunition", should be removed. The Governor-General via Order In Council should not be allowed to make a blanket ban on ammunition types. This clause would allow de facto banning of all firearms in New Zealand by executive order.
  • Clause 8 (4A(1)), under "persons who may apply to import, sell, supply, and possess prohibited items", should have another item (h) added that allows for competition shooters to own and use semi-automatic firearms for national and international sporting disciplines.
    • This requirement should be modelled after the requirements to gain a pistol endorsement and require the same level of vettings. The new clause should read something like "a member of an incorporated rifle shooting club or pistol shooting club for the time being recognised by the Commissioner for the purposes of this section;"
    • The exclusion of legitimate sporting pursuits is very worrying and would preclude New Zealand from both national and international sporting disciplines. Even pistol shooting has disciplines that require a variety of firearms, including semi-automatic rifles, to compete with. This bill as worded would completely destroy rifle sports and competition shooting in New Zealand for zero increase in public safety.

These constructive changes given above would significantly improve this bill, make it less of a train-wreck, and keep it in line with its stated purposes. I have likely not caught all the pitfalls of this bill, and would highly recommend that the committee take on board any recommendations given by a legal representative of COLFO and other firearms community groups who understand the minute details our sport and the full ramifications of this proposed legislation.

Lastly, I do not believe the bill adequately provides promise of full compensation regardless of cost, including all accessories and relevant ammunition. If private property is to be confiscated en-mass from innocent citizens, our benevolent government should be so kind as to compensate them appropriately. In fact, it may be constitutionally obligated to do so and this bill may face legal challenge as a result if it is passed in its current form.

If the committee is interested in proposals that address actually increasing public safety, I would recommend they reject this bill and instead consider requesting one which does some of the following:

  • Legalise self-defense with firearms.
  • Issue "marshal" permits to B-Category holders to conceal carry pistols and encourage educational institutions, religious institutions, and other organisation both private and public, to designate and support this marshal programme. This will provide voluntary on the ground security in New Zealand and make it a less attractive target for future attacks.
  • Support a bill that addresses police vetting failures and provides independent oversight to the administration of the Arms Act. There could be rather simple changes made to vetting that would ensure a firearms license is not given to those without close family members or long-time friends in the country.
  • Support a bill that looks into faults of the intelligence agencies and why they are not able to effectively protect New Zealand from terrorist attacks.

In summary, I believe this Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill will probably help to make future mass-shootings slightly more difficult and likely ensure they are carried out with illegally acquired firearms rather than illegally modified ones. It will do absolutely nothing to help prevent mass-murder by a host of other means that are as effective, or more, than ones committed using firearms.

 

Addendum: I have attached an image of my .22 calibre lever-action rifle, a low-calibre replica of the famous 19th century cowboy gun ("the gun that won the west"). If this bill is passed, this gun will become a prohibited firearm as the tubular magazine holds the industry standard of 15 cartridges. My .22 calibre semi-automatic would likely remain legal as it uses 10 cartridge detachable magazines. This is just one small example of how bad this bill is.