Sunday 11 July 2010

Firearms law in New Zealand

A while back, someone in the comments asked what New Zealand's firearms regime is like.

Lew at KiwiPolitico answers. Check his post for the details on the current owner licencing regime.

I don't disagree with Lew on the political calculus around changing the existing laws. But I do disagree with him about the desirability of firearm registration:
Probably the biggest failure in our gun licensing regime is the lack of a registration regime for specific firearms. It’s expensive, time-consuming and bureaucratic but would have been of some use had it been implemented when suggested by the Thorp report, even if just to draw a clear demarcation line between compliant and non-compliant owners. I think that horse has bolted now.
Best I'm aware, the Canadian gun registration system which started in the mid 1990s - then called Bill C-68 if I recall correctly - has cost over a billion dollars and has trivial to no effect on crime. The Conservatives there may yet wind up supporting a private member's bill to eliminate the gun registry. Recall also that, when then Justice Minister Alan Rock first touted the merits of gun registration, the system was to have had net costs of only $2 million after accounting for fees paid by gun owners.

Registration systems aren't particularly simple. Serial numbers on firearms aren't unique identifiers as many historic makes repeated serial numbers. Engraving a new registration number on a historic firearm destroys some of its value; putting a sticker on the firearm instead is next to useless as they peel off during normal firearm cleaning. And you can expect owners compelled to enter registration data onto forms will be less than cooperative in making the information be useful.

But I do like Lew's closing:
But “Nanny State” also comes into this. Tim suggests that Labour couldn’t afford to do this [tighten gun laws] for fear of strengthening the narrative established by the last term of the Clark government (I agree), but that National might just be able to get away with it (I disagree). Half of National’s support base are farmers or rural/semi-rural men of average to above-average income who are generally law-abiding and consider themselves responsible citizens in partnership with the government and authorities of the nation — of the view that the government “works for us”, rather than the view that the government is an agent of their oppression. (There are exceptions to this last, but mostly they vote for ACT and are thus irrelevant to this calculus.) This is almost exactly the same demographic which wants to be able to take care of his own rabbit problem and hunkers down in a cold maimai before dawn on the first weekend of winter for a laugh, and they greatly value the illusion that doing so is an inalienable right akin to that laid down by the Second Amendment. They tolerate (often with considerable reluctance) the existing licensing regime partly as a pragmatic solution to the social problem of crime, and partly because it accords them the status of being officially deemed “fit and proper”.[emphasis added] But they will not tolerate further incursions on these rights, and it is this demographic upon whom the gun lobby, with its US-imported “armed society is a polite society” rhetoric is targeting, using the present hysteria about violent crime as a springboard. These are the guys who already feel under threat from policies like the ETS, which prevents them from buying the V8 utility vehicle, forcing them to settle for the V6.
One school of thought says that National doesn't much mind its base leaking to ACT as that just comes back as a coalition government. But National campaigned pretty hard against ACT's anti-ETS rural offensive. I'd be surprised if National wanted to further stir up its rural base.

I like Lew's line about how some folks get mild jollies by having a government agent deem them "fit and proper".
Grade me...look at me...evaluate and rank me! Oh, I'm good, good, good, and oh so smart! Grade me!
[Marge scribbles an A on a piece of paper]
[Lisa walks off, muttering crazily and sighing]

1 comment:

  1. I'd be interested to know if the change from granting lifetime firearms licenses to making you reapply for them every 10 years has made any difference to anything, as it must be quite an expensive exercise. The initial test that you sit to get the licence ensures that you have a basic idea of firearms safety, which is all good, but after that I really wonder about the benefits. Even if the firearms officer (who in my experience is always a pleasant but take-no-bullshit sort of old cop) got a bad feeling about you, could they actually do anything about it if you provided the referees etc? Eb Leary managed to get plenty of high status professional people to say good things about him, and my sister, who was a detective, watched in court once as an MP gave a character reference to someone she knew was a paedophile.

    It doesn't seem to me that NZ has what you would call a gun culture. If it really did no one would be daring to suggest that firearms should be licensed. Many urban people are not sympathetic to the use of firearms (but maybe they tend to be Labour voters anyway). My suspicion is that expanding controls surrounding firearms users and their firearms is yet another expensive exercise that will affect only the law abiding. I've just looked at Paul Walker's blog and it occurs to me that this may be a classic example of the state using fear to take away liberties in the name of safety. Having said that, I don't have a problem with genuine trade-offs between liberty and safety, but I suspect that here we are talking about a loss of liberty traded for no extra safety.

    I must say I am a little disbelieving that anyone actually gets anything out of being “officially deemed 'fit and proper.'”