COLFO News 18th June 2020 after reading the Bill

This is the email I never wanted to write.  Despite the evidence, despite the Royal Commission having not even reported back yet, and despite the mounting evidence that a key factor which led to the terrible events in Christchurch was the Police’s mistakes in not following the old law (or their own policies on vetting) tonight Parliament passed the third and final reading of the Arms Legislation Bill 63 votes to 50.  

Labour, the Green Party and New Zealand First supported the Bill through the last step to become law.

This is a terrible injustice imposed on licenced firearm owners to cover Police mistakes. Nicole's comments to the media are copied below:



The Council of Licenced Firearms Owners (COLFO) says the passage of the Arms Legislation Bill today is a ‘terrible injustice’ imposed upon the licenced firearm owning community to cover Police mistakes.

COLFO spokesperson Nicole McKee says the law punished firearm owners by changing licence rules that had worked perfectly well until Police switched resources and methods a few years ago.

“The licence rules worked, but it appears that Police didn’t apply them correctly to the Christchurch shooter. The new rules will only be as good as the people applying them

“Parliament should be embarrassed to have passed a law before anyone – including a Royal Commission - has worked out what the problem was.

“Rather than wait for information on what led to a tragic event and make recommendations, the Government and Police have lashed out at a group of people they had repeatedly certified as trustworthy and of good character.” 

McKee says the new law does not have a single clause that will make people safer than they were before the Christchurch shooting, so COLFO intended to work with Police to make their implementation more effective.

“Not one New Zealander is made safer by this law. Implementation will be made worse by the Police being under-resourced, as we saw in their bungle of the gun confiscation and poor writing of these laws."

McKee thanked the thousands of supporters who came out in force to meet with their local MPs, make submissions to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, and attend protests throughout the country.

“Our opposition to this bill activated thousands of ordinary New Zealanders up and down the country and spurred them into action. This issue will dominate their vote in the coming general election,” she says.


Last-minute changes:

There were some positive changes as the Bill went through Parliament this week - 

  • They delayed the start of the firearms registry until 2023. Clearly they realised that is was going to be costly and bureaucratic so have given themselves as much time to walk away as possible.
  • They’ve agreed to set up an independent authority to administer the Arms Act. That means instead of the Police making the calls on your licence application, an independent authority could. We called for this in our submission, and this week’s media revelations that the Police didn’t vet the Christchurch terrorist's application proves we were right to do so.
  • We also fought for the Firearms Advisory Group to be appointed by and report to the Minister, rather than the Police Commissioner. The Minister of Police appears to have agreed. In the related Cabinet paper, Stuart Nash said he needed to hear more views than merely what was being channelled through the Police
  • They have made it easier for farmers to get pest control licences for semi-automatics (but it will still be hard in practice for them to do so).
  • They have tinkered with the import process but it hasn’t fixed the issues we’ve previously expressed concern on.

There is still a lot wrong with the Bill. We are still very concerned that - 

  • The Police are still planning to put a massive burden on sporting clubs and ranges with new rules and regulations.
  • There is no sport shooters exemption. We have been told that NZ First pushed hard to get this in but failed. Without it our best shooters won’t be able to shine on the international stage.
  • Under the Act it will be an offence to possess ammunition without a firearms licence.

What happens now?

As soon as the Governor-General signs off on the Bill, some of it will come in to affect immediately, including the high penalties for existing offences.

There will also be newly prohibited firearms. These can be found here. The Government has given an indication that there will be a new amnesty and compensation scheme for these firearms. But they haven't released any of the details on that yet. We will be fighting for clarity on this as soon as possible.

Other provisions like the new offence of possessing ammunition without a licence and the new firearm licence provisions (including needing a health practitioner) will come into force in 6 months time. The regime for sporting clubs and ranges is two years away, and the registry (and your obligations to enter information in it) three years away.

Not all is lost

The election is only 93 days away. ACT has been campaigning hard on this issue and clearly the response we saw from National this week shows that they see there are votes in this too. NZ First has said they will push for more post-election if they are in Government.

Thank you to the thousands of you who came out in force to meet with your local MPs, make Select Committee submissions and attend protests throughout the country.

Thanks to you, at least 50 parliamentarians know that gun owners can't be silenced. We only need another 11 to overturn what happened today, and understand that hammering law-abiding and responsible licenced firearms owners doesn't make New Zealand safer.

Michael Dowling  18/6/20