Shootings prompt debate about gun registration

The recent shootings in Connecticut have generated debate about gun ownership law in New Zealand.

A Dunedin professor says all guns in New Zealand should be registered, but a gun lobbyist says the idea is nonsense.

Prof Kevin Clements, of the University of Otago Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, said the 236,000 gun licence holders in New Zealand owned more than a million guns but the exact number was unknown because only the gun owner, and not the gun, required registration.

The gun owner and the gun should be registered, Prof Clements said.

He said there were fewer regulations for guns in New Zealand than in Australia.

''We need to get in line with our neighbours.''

The regulations should stipulate who owned a gun and where the gun was located, he said. Sports Industry Association spokesman Chris Ziesler said registering guns was ''nonsense''.

A person had to be assessed as mentally fit before they could own a firearm in New Zealand, he said. The law was right because the person, not the gun, caused gun crime.

The compulsory registration of guns had been ineffective globally and when introduced in Canada, it cost the country millions of dollars and failed to lower rates of gun crime, he said.

Australia should not be looked at for guidance because its rates of gun crime was ''worlds ahead'' of New Zealand.

shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

Sane gun owners

Hype.O.Thermia seems to be writing of clinical understanding of mental illness, rather than lived experience. In that case, so shall I. There are chronic risk factors associated with the psychopathology of untreated personality disorder. Lately, even depressive illness has been cited in defence cases. In any case, a medical clearance is needed prior to gun ownership. What is this assessment if not of the applicant's character and makeup?

Registration a proven failure

Had Prof. Clements been paying attention for the last 17 years or so he might have noted the vastly expensive and futile waste of money that was the Canadian experience with registering shotguns and rifles. In the early nineties Canada invited a highly experienced and knowledgeable NZ Police Inspector to Canada to brief them on New Zealand's new (1993) system of licensing and vetting individual gun owners, not their guns.

The Inspector strongly advised the Canadian Government not to attempt to introduce universal registration on the grounds of cost and ineffectiveness. The Canadians ignored this advice and in 1995 introduced the long gun registry with Bill C95. Now, seventeen years and two billion dollars later, they have just scrapped the long gun registry because it proved to be essentially useless.

New Zealand has the best, most effective and cost effective system of firearm licensing in the world and we do not need and cannot afford to go tinkering with what ain't broke. [abridged]

Psychiatric clearance

"Specialist psychiatric clearance before owning a firearm" would please ffolkes.  It would not reassure anyone who has any understanding of mental illness, though.  All a psychiatrist can do is assess a person "now" and evaluate their future taking into account what is known about their past.  But mental illness is something that occurs in people who had been as normal and average and ordinary as reliable as frozen peas.  It may arrive suddenly, like a broken leg or gradually, like RSI or invisibly like anaemia.  The world would be a lot simpler if all it took was a psychiatrist to pick out who was going to turn into a homicidal maniac at some time in the future, so he or she could be denied life-long access to firearms, knives, baseball bats, matches and all other dangerous items.  Easy-peasy, huh? 

Assessment for gun ownership

If medical assessment is specialist psychiatric clearance before owning a firearm, all well and good.

Over-regulation.

More costly rules are not the answer in this case. The people who commit these crimes are hardly going to stop and think "oh this gun is registered, perhaps I shouldn't do this." 

Australia's ridiculously

Australia's ridiculously strict firearm laws have ruined the shooting sports in that country. New Zealand has no problems with firearms ownership. There is no reason to "get in line" with retarded policy.