- This submission is made on behalf of the Firearms Safety Council of Aotearoa New Zealand (FSCANZ), which I chair. It has been consulted with member organisations. Membership of the FSCANZ includes the following organisations Pistol NZ, NZ Shooting Industries Assoc., NZ Shooting Fed., NZ Pighunting Assoc., NZ Antique and Historical Arms Assoc., NZ Blackpowder Fed., NZ Deerstalkers Assoc., NZ Service Rifle Assoc., Firearms Safety Specialists NZ Ltd., Federated Mountain Clubs, Target Shooting NZ, Sporting Shooters Assoc. NZ, Rural Women NZ, Safari Club International.
- Seven of the members have found time to confirm they support this submission. Rural Women NZ have indicated they will be making their own submission.
- The formation of the FSCANZ in 2016 was motivated by the deep concern of firearms organisations for continued community safety and firearm user safety training.
- The objectives of the Council include, among other things, to provide advice to government agencies and other organisations, such as the media, on firearms safety related matters, and, to do other things as may be necessary, incidental or conducive to the attainment of the Council’s objectives.
- As a result this submission focusses solely on the safe use of firearms as proposed in the Amendment Bill. This is more about setting expectations of outcomes than supporting or opposing the Bill. We are mindful of Former High Court Dame Sian Elias’ comment: ‘legislation needs to be based on solid research, not pious hopes’.
The ability of Police to manage safe use and control of firearms.
- The FSCANZ has noted variable allocation of resources to the safe use and control of firearms, firearms safety training and the promotion of the safe use of firearms on the part of NZ Police. In their 2018 Annual Report (page 50) Police note that ‘due to increased demand in other Police priority areas, fewer resources have been available for firearms licensing activities in the 2017/18 year’.
- High Court Judge Thorp in his 1997 Review of Arms Control in New Zealand (page 120) commented on ‘the arms business being given a progressively lower priority (by Police) and becoming under-resourced’. He thought that this needed to be addressed and said ‘it is accordingly a matter of some importance that, whatever variation on the current arrangements is selected, it incorporates some means of ensuring that competition with other work does not in future result in a similar suppression of the development and maintenance of an efficient arms control system’. FSCANZ submits that this remains a consideration.
Aotearoa New Zealand – an increasingly safe place, overall
- FSCANZ submits that the Select Committee consider that firearms are used in a safe manner in Aotearoa New Zealand, with death and injury, including non-intentional, suicide and homicide having reduced significantly over the last 50 years.
- We do not consider that this detracts in any way from the need to establish controls that minimise the likelihood of events such as those in Christchurch.
- The speed the amendment is introduced: This amendment is being introduced with extreme haste. This has not allowed for full analysis, including by officials; has not allowed a ‘lessons learnt approach’ from the actual Christchurch incident; and has not allowed for a reasonable consultative process, either in the drafting or in the consideration by the Select Committee.
- Community consultation: the arms legislation in this country was developed in an environment typified by community consultation (with interest groups). This amendment has not been drafted in this way. FSCANZ is therefore appreciative of the limited scope of the amendment, and urges Government and Police to retain a community consultative process in drafting legislation. This was a commitment from both Police and Government in the 2012 amendment.
- One consideration, as an example, is that some less able people are not able to use actions other than semi-automatic in their shooting sports. Consideration might be given to approving the use of semi-automatics (without using a large capacity magazine) in shooting sports.
- Controls on large capacity magazines: The definition of prohibited magazine seems to address the issue of magazines that fit a range of firearms, other than semi-automatic. This has been problematic for some time.
- Banning certain firearms: FSCANZ draws the attention of the Select Committee to the UK and Australian experience implementing bans. While they impacted those who possessed and used firearms lawfully, they had no apparent impact on the unlawful possession and use of those firearms (cf. former UK Superintendent Greenwood, the UK Home Office 2006). In 2002 Australia introduced a national handgun control agreement. Since then there has been an increase in homicides by handgun with a high level of diversion of handguns to the illicit market. Judge Thorp (page 137/138) suggested that ‘there can be no guarantee that banning MSSAs will prevent further mass killings. However, there is enough of a possibility that a ban may inhibit the frequency and consequences of such events’.
- Buybacks: 2003 research (Australian Institute of Criminology, Mouzos and Reuter) found it difficult to link the Australian experience with buyback to violence reduction. Australian import figures show that following the buyback after 1996/97 Australia effectively rearmed – with more modern firearms. FSCANZ suggests that in banning and buying back semi-automatic firearms this country will experience something similar.
- Penalties and the possible effect on the safety of Police: The 2006 UK Home Officer research with offenders warned against increasing penalties to the level where getting into a shootout with Police becomes ’worthwhile’ to the offender.
Firearms Safety Council Aotearoa New Zealand
4 April 2019