Experts anticipate quick changes to gun laws

An AK-47 with bump stock installed. Photo: Getty Images
An AK-47 with bump stock installed. Photo: Getty Images
Gun safety experts expect swift clampdowns on gun ownership after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pledged to change the country's near 30-year-old gun laws.

Close to 250,000 people in New Zealand hold firearm licences and only military-style semi-automatic guns need to be registered, leaving the majority un-accounted for by authorities.

Exactly what will change is not yet known. However, gun safety advocates have said banning semi-automatic firearms and registering all guns would be a good start.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said semi-automatic weapons needed to be banned.

"We know how easy it is to get firearms in New Zealand and while today and the next few days is the time to look after the welfare of the victims and their families, clearly we need to have a look at firearms law in New Zealand," Mr Cahill said.

He said there also needed to be a register of all guns and who owned them.

"If someone was building up a cache of weapons and there was some alarms around that, it would be something that could be followed up. But as it stands now, we have no idea who's buying weapons and where they're keeping them or how many they have in New Zealand."

The gunman responsible for the deadly terrorist attacks on mosques on Christchurch on Friday held a standard firearms licence that allowed him to own limited power semi-automatic weapons.

Fifty people were killed in the attacks on two mosques in the central city during prayers and dozens of people have also been injured injured.

Police said it may have been possible for him to have bought his firearms legally and then altered them, to turn them in to semi-automatic weapons.

Coalition of Licenced Firearm Owners secretary Nicole McKee said there was a stringent vetting process for firearm licenses that included interviews with referees.

Even so, she said changes may needed to be made to ensure the wrong people did not access firearms in the future.

"We have made it clear to some government agencies that we are open not to lobby them, but to have some frank discussions about what we can do to assist this country to ensure that this sort of thing cannot happen in the future," Ms McKee said.

"It's not about lobbying, it's about how we can ensure that everybody in our country is kept safe."

Ms McKee said the rifle association did not want to see ill-considered legislative changes.

"What we don't want to see is knee-jerk legislative changes because they will always have unintended consequences. We need to ensure there is well considered and well-funded investigations to prevent this occurring in the future."

Gun policy expert and University of Sydney Associate professor Philip Alpers said someone with a standard firearms license was entitled to own as many entry level firearms as they would like to.

He said he was not surprised to learn the terror attacks were likely perpetrated with legally held weapons.

"We're all assuming that he legally owned those firearms. I wasn't at all surprised by that because most of the victims of mass shootings in Australia and New Zealand have been shot and killed by lawful firearm owners holding legally held guns."

He said gun laws could change in a matter of days if there was the political and public will, as in Australia after the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 when gun laws changed in 12 days.

"You don't have nine jurisdictions to wrangle you only have one jurisdiction. You've got far more people dead."

University of Otago professor and gun safety advocate Kevin Clements said there were 1.5 million guns in New Zealand and no one knew for sure who owned them.

He questioned how most people would feel knowing standard firearms licence holders did not have to register their weapons.

"Most people don't have white supremacist [ideologies] and are not inclined to kill people. But I've been saying again and again you just need one person who contravenes those norms and chaos can follow - and that's exactly what's happened here in Christchurch."

Attorney General David Parker said he supported Ms Ardern's pledge for change but the government was yet committed to banning semi-automatic weapons.

"There's no single answer to the prevention of the atrocity that occurred [on Friday], but certainly, if you had less fearsome weapons it would make a difference."

Comments

We MUST ban all semi automatic weapons, they are only for killing people, no use for anything else. Register ALL firearms with very severe penalities for any unregistered after a certain date. I'll vote for whoever supports & agrees to those changes.

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