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Firearms law not so automatic

There’s been a lot of ill-informed comment on the subject of firearm reform.

It started with the hysteria over semi-automatics, where even the Prime Minister appeared out of his depth.

For a start semi-automatic firearms aren’t banned in New Zealand. They can be owned by a number license types and license endorsements. There are currently 6600 licensed firearm owners who can legally own semi-automatics.

Semi-automatics gained a reputation after the mosque shooting that I didn’t agree with.

I could argue all day that guns are neutral. It is the person using them that is the problem, and in the Mosque shooting, the shooter should never have been given a gun license. Sloppy police procedure was the issue, not the weapon.

I had a semi-automatic that I used to control goats and pigs at the back of the farm. You can’t effectively control them with a bolt-action rifle. As a responsible citizen, I handed it in, and now we have an explosion of goats in the area.

The other issue I have is that of an Arms Register, for the simple reason it’s not going to work.

There are many gun owners who don’t have a license and haven’t for years. They had a whole-of-life license, and when the government changed the law to a 10-year license, they refused.

Another issue is that licensed gun owners I know claim that the police register isn’t secure.

The saga hasn’t stopped the police in Wellington from distorting the issue.

In a media release, the police lauded the fact that over 10,000 licensed firearm owners had joined the registry. There are 300,000 licensed gun owners in NZ, so 10,000 is insignificant. Further, if you buy a firearm or move house, you are required by law to be on the register, further making the 10,000 figure irrelevant.

The police union went on to claim that gangs got their firearms by stealing from licensed firearm owners. The facts are that of 6500 firearms seized by police over the last three years only 123 were legally imported. In the believe it or not category, police union boss Chris Cahill accused the Minister responsible, Nicole McKee, of ‘misleading statements’. He should know.

Then the Police Firearms Safety Authority told me that a recent poll had 71 per cent of Kiwis supporting the Register. No questionnaire was available, and we found out that the poll was done for the anti-gun lobby meaning the poll had no credibility whatsoever.

I rate Nicole McKee as a Minister. When it comes to firearms, she knows her stuff. She wants the Firearms Safety Authority removed from police, and to scrap the register and have instant license disqualification for gang membership. I support all three initiatives. In addition, she has moved responsibility for the Arms Act from police to justice.

The police in Wairarapa do, in my opinion, an amazing job. It must gall some to be let down by their union and the Firearms Safety Authority, which is a branch of the police.

    Alan Emerson is a semi-retired writer, farmer and businessman living in Wairarapa. He writes a weekly column for Farmers Weekly and has written and/or edited five books.

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