New Zealand’s Semi-Automatic Weapons Bill Sails Through Parliament
“I struggled to recall any single gunshot wounds. In every case they spoke of multiple injuries, multiple, debilitating injuries that deemed it impossible for them to recover in days, let alone weeks.”
On April 11 New Zealand’s Governor General Patsy Reddy signed into law new sweeping gun regulations prohibiting military-style weapons, less than a month after a man shot 50 people to death at two mosques during Friday prayer in Christchurch.
The new gun control law bans circulation and ownership of military-style and semi-automatic weapons as well as parts that can convert weapons into prohibited firearms. Those violating the law will face a maximum sentence of 10 years.
However, semi-automatic .22 caliber or smaller guns that hold up to 10 rounds or semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns with non-detachable magazines that hold up to five rounds are not banned. Those guns are considered to be commonly used in hunting.
Data from gunpolicy.org indicate there are around 1.2 to 1.5 million firearms in New Zealand, with license records showing that 13,500 of them are military-style semi-automatics, but the figure may be much higher than the estimate.
“We are committed to working in partnership with our firearms community across New Zealand to make this transition to the new laws as easy as possible for everybody,” Clement told reporters.
How the Buyback Program Works
Clement added that the government was working on details of a buyback scheme and called for those owning banned firearms to register online. When asked if New Zealand was ready to handle the influx of guns, Clemont responded, “That’s why I’d urge gun owners to register online, be patient, keep the firearms secured so that by the time the New Zealand police is ready to receive those firearms, we can do so safely.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern estimated that the buyback program will cost the nation NZ $100-200 million, but relevant ministers warned the cost could be higher, depending on the number of firearms handed over to the country’s police.
Ardern guaranteed that gun owners will receive “fair and reasonable” compensation for handing over their arms. Independent advisors will determine the value of those now-outlawed arms based on their condition and age for the buyback program. While the government will set up a panel consisting of experts to determine the compensation for highly valued weapons.
The Majority of NZ Parliament Voted to Pass the Law
The mosque attack in Christchurch less than a month ago drove the Ardern administration to revise gun regulation. Gun laws had not seen a significant change since 1992 as all previous efforts to pass new gun regulations failed.
The draft, which was passed on Wednesday, won a 119-1 vote in the parliament. Only one lawmaker from the ACT party disagreed with the draft, saying the plan was too rushed and there was not enough time for public consultation.
Speaking before the parliament, Ardern emotionally expressed how the new law could represent those who are voiceless. The prime minister tried to hold back her tears when telling of her visit to a Christchurch hospital after the deadly shooting.
Ardern said, “I struggled to recall any single gunshot wounds. In every case, they spoke of multiple injuries, multiple, debilitating injuries that deemed it impossible for them to recover in days, let alone weeks. They will carry disabilities for a lifetime, and that’s before you consider the psychological impacts. We are here because of them.”
New Zealand’s gun control makes it similar to that of its neighbor, Australia. Canberra implemented stricter gun laws that also gave compensation for anyone who handed over their weapons following a shooting in Tasmania in 1996.
The U.S. is reluctant to follow suit despite the increase in the number of deaths caused by firearms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data showed that there were more than 39,733 firearms-related deaths in 2017, the highest in 50 years.
Gun legislation varies widely from state to state in the U.S. In some states it’s easier to buy a firearm than to purchase an over-the-counter cold medication like Sudafed, given the medicine’s active ingredient, pseudoephedrine, is the same substance that is used to make the illegal drug methamphetamine.
Both the U.S. and New Zealand though are still the only countries apart from Canada to some degree that doesn’t have (firearm) registration as its third pillar of gun control along with licensing and treating possession as a conditional privilege, Sydney University gun policy expert Philip Alpers told the AP.