Last month’s terrible massacre in Christchurch horrified us all and, as a result, it is appropriate changes were made to our firearms legislation to try to prevent any similar act of terror happening again in our country.
A recent television opinion poll confirmed feedback I received in Hamilton West suggesting that most New Zealanders support the actions Parliament took in the aftermath of the shootings – although I acknowledge that some were disappointed.
National MPs supported the Government’s swift reaction and played a constructive role in these changes. The provisions in the Firearms Amendment Act are measured, and designed to remove military-style weapons from our neighbourhoods.
Contrary to some feedback that we received, the changes are not an attack on law-abiding firearms owners, and there are provisions in the Act that retain access to the most commonly and lawfully-used lower capacity semi-automatic firearms. We acknowledge there is justification for some use of these firearms, in particular by hunters and farmers, and the Act includes provision for these activities.
To allow for the prohibited items to be safely removed from the community, the Act includes an amnesty until 30 September 2019.
Alongside the amnesty, National supports the idea of a buy-back scheme. We also think dealers should be included in that scheme.
We are sympathetic to the argument raised by sporting bodies and individual competitors that the Act should contain an exemption for target shooting competitions, so we were disappointed that an exemption regime for international sporting shooters was not included in the changes. National believes it is possible to design an exemption regime that allows for their use under strict regulation, and we moved amendments during the Bill’s consideration in Parliament to achieve this. Unfortunately, these were voted down by the Government.
We were also disappointed the Government decided not to support the introduction of a Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO) regime in the Bill. FPOs would widen the powers available to the Police to search the homes and cars of serious criminals for firearms. We remain concerned that gang members may refuse to surrender their firearms that became illegal with the passing of this Bill and strongly believe the Police need the power to issue FPOs.
I am pleased that the National Party’s push for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the mosque terror attacks was successful. The Commission will look at:
- The alleged gunman's activities and travel before the attack;
- His connections with others in New Zealand and overseas;
- What relevant state sector agencies knew about him;
- Whether there were any impediments to agencies gathering or sharing information or acting upon it, including legislative impediments;
- And if there was any inappropriate concentration or priority of resources by state sector agencies prior to the attack.
The commission of inquiry is expected to begin considering evidence next month and to report in December. I thank all constituents who contacted me to express their views following the atrocity.