New Zealand: the Wild West of gun control

Gun control in New Zealand mightn’t be as firm as some might think. There are a million guns somewhere and nobody knows where most of them are or who has them.

Despite significant progress in banning some kinds of firearms and confiscating others, New Zealand still has no gun registry.

“We might be east of Australia geographically but we continue to be the Wild West when it comes to gun control,” said Peter Garrick, the executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Auckland.

“We have more than twice as many legally imported but unregistered guns as we have registered dogs. “We continue to import them on an industrial scale – 52,000 in 2018 alone – and allow them to be marketed aggressively, particularly in rural towns.”

Garrick is accusing the government of dragging its feet over the matter as a gun register would not now be active until June 2023.

Making an oral submission to the Justice Select Committee on the Firearms Prohibition Orders Legislation Bill, Garrick said New Zealand had twice as many guns per capita in circulation as Australia and more than five times that of the UK.

He told the Committee one of the reasons for this “dangerous situation in which we live is the lack of controls over the importation and commercial sale of guns.” He also pointed to a legal loophole in the current legislation which lets purchasers on-sell their weapons without breaking the law.

He cited research by Professor Alexander Gillespie who showed – three years ago – how accountability, traceability and safety would be improved by introducing a comprehensive gun register – an essential next step following the Christchurch shootings.

Garrick said the Firearms Prohibition Orders Legislation Bill may be well-intentioned but lacked credibility as a tool for solving the increasing use of firearms in violent situations.

He said the Commission wanted the Arms Act amended so that gun licences were issued only to people with a ‘genuine reason’ to possess a firearm and that these be renewed every five years. He also wanted all licensed firearms owners to register their firearms within a year of the gun register going ‘live.’

There is also a strong argument for licensed firearms owners to be allowed to purchase only ammunition that is suitable for their registered firearms and that ammunition sales be recorded on the firearms registry.


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News category: New Zealand.

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