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Thread: Article: Consultation will make Kiwi gun ban better than ours

  1. #1
    Semper excretia Ryan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    North Island

    Article: Consultation will make Kiwi gun ban better than ours

    John Howard’s political friends and foes praise his firm leadership following the Port Arthur massacre in April 1996. Howard includes gun control among his three most significant achievements in public life, and rightly so.
    The adoption of the National Firearms Agreement by the states and territories was a turning point in the nation’s history. After years of debate following the Hoddle and Queen street massacres in 1987 and another at Strathfield Plaza in 1991, Howard insisted that premiers and police ministers heed the demands of ordinary Australians for more stringent regulation of privately owned firearms.
    Bob Hawke had tried but failed. Howard succeeded despite objections from elements of the National Party and opposition from farmers, hunters and sporting shooters.

    As the New Zealand government has moved towards tighter gun control in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, there are three lessons that it may take from the Australian experience.
    The first concerns the relationship between the government’s obligation to keep people safe and the entitlement of individual citizens to exercise their freedom, including owning and using a firearm. Unlike the US — where the second amendment to the constitution has been interpreted to include a right to private ownership of firearms for the purpose of self-defence — neither the Australian nor the New Zealand constitutions mention firearms. Private citizens cannot claim an overarching right to own firearms.

    Although the commonwealth did not have the constitutional power to regulate beyond restricting the importation of certain categories of firearms, Howard had to secure the agreement of all jurisdictions to accept a common set of standards. With the active advocacy of deputy prime minister and Nationals leader Tim Fischer and attorney-general Daryl Williams, Howard used the authority of his office and the strength of community sentiment to oblige the states that had the authority to regulate firearms to accept a national approach.
    Within months, the states and territories amended their legislation to require all firearm owners to be licensed, all firearms to be registered and all restricted firearms to be relinquished. But there was deep resentment among many firearm owners whose requests to be consulted were ignored. Law-abiding farmers, hunters and sporting shooters complained of being made to feel like criminals and many resolved to campaign vigorously against the new regulations until their interests were acknowledged.

    Two decades on, there is bitterness among older shooters who still agitate for what they believe are reasonable changes to the NFA. To avoid the long-running tensions that have accompanied Australian discussion of firearm regulation, the New Zealand government must include owners in the law reform process. Involving shooting organisations will increase the likelihood that restricted firearms in private hands will be relinquished and will ensure individual shooters feel their voice has been heard and their concerns acknowledged. About 500,000 restricted firearms were not relinquished during the initial Australian gun buyback, partly because shooters were ignored by their government. With a more consultative approach, New Zealand can avoid having to deal with something resembling the “grey market” of unregistered firearms that exists in Australia.

    A second lesson can be drawn from the NFA’s wording. It is a largely practical document that concentrates on technical specifications. It covers calibres and categories, barrel lengths and magazine capacities, and features detailed arrangements for licensing owners and registering firearms.

    This meant the agreement was quickly dated, as some sections were soon made irrelevant by technological change. There were firearm innovations and improvisations intentionally designed to defeat the objective of the regulations.
    While unnecessarily detailed on mundane matters, it lacked an introductory narrative that outlined its objectives and explained its provisions. There was no attempt to set out the government’s responsibility for community safety and no justification for restricting certain categories of firearm.

    The agreement simply assumed the state’s authority to regulate firearm ownership and asserted the government’s power to coerce citizens into complying. Cause and consequence are not linked; specific classes of person would be precluded from owning a firearm and certain categories of firearms would henceforth be restricted.

    That was it.

    Howard told his colleagues that imposing the NFA was contrary to his political principles: he would be penalising individuals who had done nothing wrong. While most people accepted the need for tighter regulation, the government encroached on individual liberties but felt no need to tell the people why such draconian action was necessary.

    This unilateral action created a dangerous precedent in a society that was already one of the most regulated in the Western world. Notably, the agreement was imposed by a political party otherwise committed to upholding individual freedoms.
    New Zealand needs to do more than simply ban specific firearms. When the raw emotion of the past week has subsided it must provide a defence of the state’s obligation to legislate and the citizen’s duty to comply. Dealing with a tragedy does not remove the burden to justify government interference in the lives of citizens.

    A third lesson can be drawn from the absence of objectives in the NFA. Is the purpose of the agreement the prevention of shooting sprees in public places or the reduction of homicides, suicides and gun crime more generally? There has not been a repeat of the Port Arthur massacre or anything like it in Australia. If this was the NFA’s purpose, it has been successful. If it was also intended to lower the incidence of homicide and suicide, its impact has been marginal if not negligible.
    Even the gun control lobby has conceded that the NFA’s influence on homicide and suicide has been modest at most. Both were declining well before Port Arthur and the discussion since then has focused on whether the agreement may have slightly increased the rate of decrease.

    Banning semiautomatic centre-fire rifles and pump-action shotguns may reduce the number of deaths in a shooting spree. But if the objective is lowering homicide, suicide and gun crime, creating and maintaining a costly and complex licensing and registration regime is inefficient and will be ineffective.

    New Zealand ought to avoid imposing on itself an expensive regulatory regime of the type Australia embraced after 1996 because it has not made the community safer. Illegally imported firearms are the largest source of guns used by criminals.
    The demand for reform in New Zealand is urgent and compelling. Legislators would do well to consider the Australian experience and implement sound, evidence-based policy that will unite rather than divide a nation that has shown remarkable solidarity in the past week.

    Tom Frame is director of the Howard Library at Old Parliament House and author of Gun Control: What Australia Got Right and Wrong, to be published by UNSW Press in September. He is a licensed firearm owner

    "I would rather suffer under imperfect freedom, than languish under perfect control".

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Thanks for posting that Ryan, the article covers some very important issues that need to be fleshed out in submissions. I will certainly be referencing it.
    dogmatix likes this.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2018
    Yup if its rushed while we get initially screwed over it will dare I say it have very little impact on normal guncrime, probably drive firearms they wanted gone underground and leave big gaps that invite ways to circumvent.
    look at the pump actions AR platforms and bolt in magazines in the states etc (although they may have had that in mind when they banned immediate modifications?), lever action shotguns in aussie and even semi-semi autos in Europe.
    The mag extension ban on shotguns is a bugger. Good on rabbits and the odd time for ducks/geese.



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