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The passage of the Government's second tranche of gun law reforms seems far from certain, but New Zealand First is stopping short of demanding changes to secure the party's ongoing support.
The Arms Legislation Bill, which would create a national gun register and ban gang members from getting a firearms licence, is opposed by National and Act and will not pass without NZ First's support.
As the Government looks to pass the bill into law in the first week of March, the firearms community is being asked to lobby NZ First MPs and dangle the prospect of electoral defeat.
"If NZ First supports this bill, they'll be toast this election. There are more than a quarter of a million licenced firearms owners - please make that voice heard NOW," said an email, sent today, from the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners.If NZ First withdrew support for the bill, it would be a huge blow to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has portrayed the reforms as a necessary response to the March 15 tragedy to improve public safety.
When the bill passed its second reading last night - with Labour, the Greens and NZ First supporting - NZ First MP Ron Mark expressed sympathy for gun owners and raised a number of issues with the bill in its current form.
He expressed support for easing restrictions on the use of certain firearms in rifle ranges, shooting competitions and for pest control, as well as an independent authority to relieve police of the duty of issuing firearms licences.
An avid hunter and shooter, Mark said he felt for the gun owners "who have never transgressed, who have always demonstrated absolute responsibility as they've participated in their chosen sport".
"Be that service rifle, be that deer stalking, be that duck-shooting, be that trap, down the line, skeet, whatever - all of which I myself have participated in," Mark told the House.
He said NZ First understood the "fair and reasonable" view, expressed by opponents of the bill, that law changes should first wait for the report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 terror attack.
He also had high praise for Colfo for representing firearms owners, who risked being targeted by gun-hungry gangs if they spoke up.
"They are very responsible, law-abiding New Zealanders, and they need an organisation like Colfo to represent their concerns- because they cannot for fear of identifying themselves and putting their family's safety at risk.
"It hurts me to hear people labelling an organisation, the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners, as a gun lobby or equivalent to the National Rifle Association."
Asked this afternoon if the bill had to be changed to secure NZ First's ongoing support, Mark said: "No, I wouldn't say that ... The overriding point is that we are listening."
He added: "I think it's fair to say that the New Zealand First caucus has some reservations ... I'm talking with [Police] Minister [Stuart] Nash about some things that we just want to settle in our head."
Nash said that he and Mark have been working together constructively.
The firearms community has been lobbying NZ First for some time, with a group of about 100 holding a demonstration at the NZ First annual conference last year.
At the time, NZ First MPs including leader Winston Peters met them and said they would listen carefully to submissions on the bill.
The bill's third and final reading is expected in the first week of March.