Balance needed in gun law reforms

This week the Parliament began debating the second round of the Government’s proposed changes to New Zealand’s gun laws.

These changes were drafted following the horrific terror attack at two Christchurch mosques on March 15 that resulted in the deaths of 51 Kiwi Muslims and a large number of injuries.

The first round of changes to our gun laws received overwhelming support in the Parliament and came into force earlier this year.

They included a ban on military-style semi-automatic firearms and assault rifles, certain firearm parts, magazines and ammunition and a gun buy-back scheme.

It’s too soon to judge the long-term success of the buy-back but more than 15,000 firearms have been handed in so far.

Reducing the number of the types of firearms used in the Christchurch attack that are in circulation will hopefully lower the risk of these guns falling into the wrong hands.

I struggle to see a place in our society for military-style weapons of war that can inflict horrific carnage in such a short space of time.

The second round of the proposed gun law changes had its first reading in the Parliament on Tuesday.

It includes the creation of a firearms registry, updated and new offences and penalties for gun-related crimes and increased oversight on firearm importation and sales.

The length of validity of firearms licences would be reduced from 10 years to five and a licensing regime would be created for shooting clubs and ranges.

Any changes to our gun laws must balance the rights of law-abiding gun owners with the need to increase public safety.

Getting guns out of the hands of those who would misuse them, such as criminals and gang members, should be the priority.

That’s especially the case given about 18,200 crimes involving firearms were committed in New Zealand between 2015 and 2018.

The police should be given greater powers to crack down on armed criminals to better protect the public and remove dangerous firearms from the black market.

I’m paying close attention to all sides of the debate around this issue and I’m keen to hear from a wide range of voices on it. This is a serious matter that demands thoughtful consideration.

Jami-Lee Ross

MP for Botany