Select Committee recommends Government go ahead with semi-automatics ban

A Select Committee report has recommended the Government go ahead with a ban on semi-automatic weapons.

The Finance and Expenditure Committee - which includes Michael Wood, Judith Collins and David Seymour - released its report into the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill on Monday evening.

The Bill is a response to the March 15 terror attack in which 50 people were shot dead in two mosques in Christchurch.

The Committee received more than 13,000 submissions from interested groups and individuals in regards to the Bill, and heard oral evidence from 22 submitters at hearings.Of all received submissions, roughly 60 percent were in favour of the Bill, 26 percent were opposed to the Bill and 14 percent held another opinion.

The Committee has recommended the Bill be passed with several suggested amendments, including exemptions for commercial wild animal or animal pest control businesses, firearms collectors and those with heirloom firearms, as well as a "transitional exemption" for manufacturers and exporters.

It also suggested taking out a reference to "restricted airguns" in the Bill to avoid inadvertently making paintball illegal.

Under the Bill, the following items would be prohibited:

  • All military-style semi-automatic firearms (MSSAs)
  • All semi-automatic firearms with the exception of those capable of firing only 0.22 or lower calibre rimfire cartridges from a magazine that can hold no more than 10 cartridges or semi-automatic shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold no more than five cartridges
  • Pump-action shotguns that can be used with a detachable magazine
  • Pump-action shotguns with a non-detachable tubular magazine that can hold more than five cartridges
  • Any magazines and parts that would enable a firearm to be converted into a prohibited firearm

Certain categories of gun owners would be exempt from the ban, including:

  • Licensed dealers
  • Bona fide collectors of firearms
  • Bona fide museum curators or directors
  • Approved broadcasters, bona fide theatre companies or societies, and film or television production companies
  • People engaged by the Department of Conservation, or by a management agency under the Biosecurity Act 1993, to kill or hunt wild animals or animal pests
  • People authorised by the Minister of Conservation to undertake wild animal recovery operations

More than half the report was dedicated to political parties expressing their views on the Bill.

The Green Party has objected to the suggested exemption for firearms collectors, saying it "may be utilised by those with nefarious intention". It said collectors' guns should be rendered "permanently inoperable" in accordance with a submission from the NZ Police Association.

The National Party supports the Bill but says it has concerns about some aspects including the lack of an exemption for international sports competitions and the delegation of power to the Executive to change the criminal law, which it says is "constitutionally inappropriate".

National also expressed concern that "vital details" of the buy-back scheme have yet to be disclosed by the Government, and disappointment that the Bill doesn't include a Firearm Prohibition Order regime which would widen police powers to search the homes and cars of gang members for firearms.

ACT opposes the Bill and lamented the limitations of advice and information imposed by time pressure, as well as some "highly offensive" aspects of the Select Committee process.

"We were shocked when officials from the police told the committee they could not provide advice because the Minister would not let them. We were disappointed and expressed that disappointment when the chair of the committee, supported by MPs from Government parties, chose to accept this outcome."

The party expressed scepticism at the likely success of a buy-back programme, referring to low rates of firearms recovery under similar schemes in Australia, and complained of a "loss of goodwill" with New Zealand's gun-owning community.