Christchurch terror attack: Govt moving too quickly to ban semi-automatic weapons, gun lobby says

Gun owners say the Government is moving too quickly to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons.

Just six days after a gunman massacred 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern issued an order, signed by the Governor-General, which reclassified semi-automatic weapons to immediately prevent their sale to most licence holders.

She also unveiled new legislation, expected to pass into law on April 11, that would permanently outlaw them. The changes have almost unanimous backing in Parliament, with ACT's only MP David Seymour the lone holdout.

Council of Licenced Firearms Owners spokesperson Nicole McKee told The AM Show on Friday with the freeze on sales, there's no need to rush into passing new laws.

"The Government did say she was going to be swift, and we have said that we would support effectiveness. By freezing everything from happening as of three o'clock yesterday, she is being effective - so we can see that there is no way that a terrorist would be able to commit this horrible act again in the immediate future.

"But in saying that, we do think with that freezing, that we should be able to have a longer time and consultation because there is no risk as a result of the Government's action."

Nicole McKee.
Nicole McKee. Photo credit: The AM Show

It's not known how many semi-automatic weapons there are in New Zealand. The Government estimates its buyback programme will cost between $100 and $200 million. McKee said her group estimates there are between 100,000 and 200,000 semi-automatic weapons in New Zealand, but there could be as many as 400,000.

"They haven't actually given us that much detail. They have said that in our rural community for example, that there would be some exemptions there, and the rural community is huge.

"They're firearms that are used as tools and sporting equipment within our community, our fit and proper licenced community."

Unlike the United States' National Rifle Association, the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners isn't ideologically opposed to gun control.

"We need to support our Government where there's going to be an effective change that will stop this happening again, but it does need to have thorough consultation," said McKee.

"When I support, personally, I will be supporting a change that is effective for New Zealand, but maintains our ability to continue to enjoy what we do, as fit and proper people."

The Government is launching an investigation into the intelligence agencies, the police, Customs and Immigration as to why the suspect wasn't on their radars before the attack. McKee wants the police to look into how he managed to get a licence to buy weapons.

The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners will be canvassing its members over the next few days to see how they feel about the Government's planned changes, before saying whether it backs or opposes them.