Submission to the Proposed Arms legislation Bill.

Submission to the Proposed Arms legislation Bill.

This submission is lodged by the NZ Outdoors Party, a registered political party under the Electoral Act.

The NZ Outdoors Party wish this submission to be heard in person by the select committee.

The NZ Outdoors Party has a rapidly growing and active membership, who enjoy the New Zealand outdoors for a range of activities, including food gathering, hunting and other recreation. 

The NZ Outdoors Party support the responsible use of firearms by licenced “fit and proper persons”.

The current law has a fair and sensible balance. The great majority of licenced firearms owners are responsible. The principal risk for the community, as identified by the Select Committee report of 2017 https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/reports/document/SCR_72851/inquiry-into-issues-relating-to-the-illegal-possession is from unlicenced users of guns.  This states:

New Zealand has a very low crime rate with firearms, at about 1.4 percent of all violent crime. The Police believe that most illicit 
firearms in New Zealand have entered the illicit market through theft of individuals’ firearms or firearms from dealers’ premises, 
illegal transfer from a licensed owner to an unlicensed owner, or illegal importation into New Zealand.
In 2014/15, there were 242,056 licensed firearm holders in New Zealand. We note that the overriding majority of firearms users in 
New Zealand are law abiding. Thus, our recommendations aim to reduce the flow of firearms to criminals, gangs, and those who do not 
have a licence, without unfairly impinging on law-abiding firearms users.”

The recent and ongoing gun law reforms are an arbitrary, divisive and disproportionate reaction to a single incident involving an apparent error by police in approving an overseas person who did not qualify as a fit and proper person.  If these amendments are adopted will inevitably create more unlicenced gun owners users.

Any law reform that punishes or disadvantages law abiding citizens and encourages unlawful conduct is not fit for purpose.

The NZ Outdoors Party is opposed to all the provisions in this Bill and would seek to repeal this Bill if in a position to do so after the 2020 election.  We believe the amendments to be draconian and will create criminals out of many law abiding citizens. Many of the provisions  go against established principals of New Zealand law and are contrary to the public expectations of government and the public interest. 

There are other technical matters in the Bill we see serious problems with. We will leave these the gun clubs and organisations address them, and may adopt their submissions on those points.

1. The NZ Outdoors Party are totally opposed to that section contained in the Purpose of the ACT where the ownership of firearms becomes a “privilege”. This is a significant change to the current situation and is stripping current licence holders of a right without any compensation. We suggest this may be contrary to international law. By changing this to a privilege the law is putting the discretion in the hands of any number of people and this provision alone could tie up the courts with challenges. Under the old arms act nearly every case (90%) that challenged the police discretion of who was “fit and Proper person ” was won, so this section alone will considerably increase applications to courts.

2. We totally oppose the formation of a gun register as we believe it could never work due to the fact that the numbers of firearms in licensed users control is unknown and without the cooperation of the firearms community any attempt at a register will be fraught with non compliance as well the costs will be prohibitive.  Those elements in our society who have no respect for the rule of law or who now have unlicensed firearms will never submit themselves to such a register, again making a register valueless in terms of controlling the use and access to firearms. The purpose is to make the ownership of firearms safe for the general population of NZ but we submit it will have the opposite effect.

3. The current system of assessing a fit and proper person is adequate and fit for purpose. Any person who has gone through the process will attest to the thoroughness of the current vetting system. We believe the new provisions to be draconian and undemocratic. While we do appreciate their are people who do need supervision under times of family stress once these situations have resolved themselves the removal of that individuals licence should be reviewed. By changing the status to “a privilege” it effectively allows the police to do anything they like and make judgements outside of their area of expertise. The 10 year prohibition because of a temporary protection order is draconian and totally unfair. Protection orders are often used by spouses in relationship break-up as tool to put pressure on for all sorts of non violent reasons.

4. The requirement to license “shooting ranges” is ridiculous and draconian in the way it is worded and the effects on hunters and other shooting sports people. Does it mean that a group of hunters sighting in their rifles before a hunt on a farm back paddock will be illegal? Rifle clubs and shoots have been a part of New Zealand’s long history and there  have never been any incidents around the clubs or the ranges they shoot on. To place this bureaucratic overlay on clubs is undemocratic and to include no provisions for appeals against a police ruling  to a court is wrong in principal and law.

5. One of the most concerning parts to the bill is the loss of the right to silence. This is a fundamental right that underpins the New Zealand law and the rights of citizens. To require persons to answer to police under the threat of jail is a complete and draconian departure from New Zealand law.

6.  An independent firearms commission should be set up to administer the new act. We believe the police have too much bias and history to be allowed to be involved.  The bill gives much subjective ability to individual police offers without the right of appeal and that could lead to serious problems with how the public view the police.
7. Licensed dealers. We are a little confused by the wide ranging definition of who is a dealer.  Does this section mean that online sales through websites is illegal unless the site has a licence or even the listing of “for sale” firearms on sites such as facebook, fishnhunt forum or ebay?  To what extent is “in the course of business” to be established?  Just what is ammunition? and to what extent does the definitions of firearms go as these are not well defined in the act and left to interpretation by the police or the  minister. . An example children’s toy pistols and children’s cap guns or old firearms that are incapable of being fired.

The ability for the police to make orders in council to decide what firearms classify as prohibited, is an unreasonable and arbatory abuse of power or control by the state. Stripping legally held assets from law abiding citizens along with the loss of right to silence leads to tyranny – a loss of confidence in government. The abuse of power leads to a breakdown in the rule of law.

This select committee needs to report back to parliament that this legislation is an abuse of the rule of law, established principals and the universal declaration of human rights.

This legislation needs a complete rethink. This legislation is not fit for purpose.

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Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons

President & Co-Leader Alan has dedicated a lifetime of involvement in outdoors political issues. He’s sat on a number of national body executives, boards, NGO and management groups, including the NZ Professional Hunting Guides Association, Electricorp Environmental Management Board, NZ Federation of Freshwater Anglers and the NZ Professional Fishing Guides Association. Many will know him through his website, the hugely popular New Zealand FishnHunt forum.

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