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Source: New Zealand Parliament – Hansard

Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Last evening, I think the last speech was David Seymour’s, and he made some points that I quite rightly think were a little bit offensive, and there’s one that I want to deal with first and foremost. Mr Seymour said there is nothing in this bill that would have stopped the Christchurch terrorist from getting his weapons. Now, Mr Seymour may have forgotten, but in this House, every single member of Parliament except the member from Epsom voted to get rid of these weapons. In this bill, if the member from Epsom had read it, he would see that there is a comprehensive list of what determines a fit and proper person to own a firearm. What I would say to Mr Seymour and what I would say to people who heard that statement and thought, “Goodness me, is that true?”: it is fundamentally not true at all.

On 14 March 2019, any member of the public could have wandered into a store and bought an AR-15 and bought two 30-round magazines. Any—

Rt Hon David Carter: You had to have a licence.

Hon STUART NASH: No, sorry. The honourable member is right. You had to have a firearms licence to be able to do that. Any member who had a firearms licence could have walked into Gun City and bought an AR-15—or any store, and bought an AR-15 and bought two 30-round magazines. Today, it is impossible to walk in to a gun store, a gun shop, or a sporting store and buy the sort of weapons used by the Christchurch terrorist to kill 51 Kiwis. In this bill, we have tightened up what constitutes a fit and proper person, and that Christchurch terrorist would not fit the criteria for fit and proper. So when Mr Seymour said there is nothing here that would prevent what happened in Christchurch, he is wrong—he is wrong. So I want the people of New Zealand to know the firearms environment has fundamentally changed.

The second thing that Mr Seymour said when I said that Justice Thorp recommended an independent firearm authority in 1997 is that this wouldn’t work because Justice Thorp also said that for a firearms register to work, you would need about 90 percent compliance. He asked me as the Minister how I can guarantee 90 percent compliance. Well, there are two things I would say to Mr Seymour. First of all, I trust good law-abiding citizens to obey the law. And, Mr Seymour, if they do not obey the law, then they face a fine of $10,000 for failing to provide information required for the registry, and they face a fine of $20,000 or up to two years in jail for intentionally providing false information to the registry. So Mr Seymour talks about good law-abiding citizens, and I believe good law-abiding citizens will obey the law, because if they don’t, they face up to two years in jail or a $10,000 fine.

The other thing I would say is that in this country, it is legal, it is a requirement, to register your car. It is a requirement in this country to register your dog. So why is it so offensive to ask people to register their guns? Why is it so offensive, if we require them to register their car and their dog, to ask them to register their guns?

The second thing I would say in terms of compliance with the register is what we have said is we are going to take a soft-touch approach to this. So the register, we have said, will take up to three years—up to three years to be implemented. But then what we have also said is there’s up to five years for people to actually become part of that register. And how do they become part of that? Whenever they touch the system, they’re supposed to be part of the register. When they buy a firearm, when they trade a firearm, when they buy ammunition, when they buy a part, then they become part of the system.

Mr Seymour said we are putting massive cost, an imposition, on firearms owners. No, Mr Seymour, we are not. This will be easy to do. In fact, the model we have talked about is registering your car. If Mr Seymour thinks it is a massive imposition to register your car, then maybe, Mr Seymour, this will be an imposition. But I think the vast majority of Kiwis understand why you’ve got to register your car, and I understand, Mr Seymour, that over 85 percent of New Zealanders understand why you’ve got to register your firearm.

Dr Deborah Russell: Eighty-five percent?

Hon STUART NASH: Eighty-five percent believe it’s right to register your firearm. This is not going to provide massive imposition. In fact, what we have said in the bill is that police have also got to take a light-touch approach. So it’s an informative, it’s an educational, one. They’re not going to go in there and go, “You haven’t registered your firearm—$10,000.” We have actually said it’s an instructional process. We’re making it as easy as we possibly can to register your firearm.

Then Mr Seymour said we shouldn’t be doing this because the bad guys don’t get their guns from stealing it; they get it through shipping containers. Now, there is no evidence whatsoever that that is the case—no evidence. In fact, we’ve heard at a select committee hearing a couple of years ago that that isn’t the case. But even if it was the case, is that a reason not to put this bill in place? Absolutely not. Mr Seymour, what I would say is sometimes you’ve actually got to stand for something, and by opposing everything, you end up standing for nothing.

What I would say is I’m incredibly proud of what we are doing in terms of ensuring that New Zealand is actually a safer place. Mr Seymour did ask, “Is New Zealand a safer place because of this?” What I would say is we have taken nearly 60,000 firearms out of our communities that are primarily designed to kill people. If they are still out there—if people did not participate in the buy-back—then they face up to five years in jail. They are now criminals and they face up to five years in jail.

The interesting thing is that when we undertook this and there were interviews with people who handed their firearms in, they said, “We sort of get this. We get what you’re doing—we get what you’re doing because of this.”

Hon Scott Simpson: What a hopeless defence of this bill—what a hopeless defence.

Hon STUART NASH: If Mr Simpson wants to go to his people in the Coromandel and say we are no safer because of this, well, good luck to you, but I tell you, you’re against the tide of public opinion. And I also, Mr Simpson, want you to go and say to your people, “And don’t worry about reassuring your dog, and don’t worry about registering your car.”

This is making our community safer. It is not providing huge amounts of imposition. It is doing what Justice Thorp said we should have done in 1997, and it’s about time.