NZ First were the deciding vote in the coming gun law debate. They pretended to play hardball in the interests of the shooters who elected them.

But now it would appear that they have betrayed us utterly.

Labour yields to NZ First demands on proposed gun laws but still not a done deal

Plans to set up a gun register could be delayed for up to three years as the Government aims to establish an independent entity to take over firearms licensing and administration from the police.

The move is part of a suite of changes to the Arms Legislation Bill, which saw the Labour Party give in to most of NZ First’s demands.

However, the Bill may not pass before the election, with NZ First MP Ron Mark saying the party was still “disappointed” with the outcome, which did not make exemptions for sporting shooters.

Stuff reported on Monday that the Government looked to push ahead with its gun reforms after a last-minute agreement was forged between Labour and NZ First.

It follows the revelation by Stuff that the March 15 terrorist was wrongly granted a firearms licence due to a string of police failures.

Progress on the bill, which included a firearms registry, harsher penalties, and a warning system to show if a licence holder is a fit and proper person, was mired in delay after NZ First signalled it had issues with it earlier this year.
The Government wants to establish an independent entity to take over firearms licensing and administration, moving it away from police.
The Government wants to establish an independent entity to take over firearms licensing and administration, moving it away from police.

In February, Mark signalled his party was moving away from supporting core aspects of the bill to protect the rights and privileges of legitimate firearms owners.

On Tuesday, Mark said the party had given its word to Labour that it would support the Bill passing.

“We’ll do our best, but I can’t guarantee that,” Mark said.

“It would be fair to say that passing the bill was going to be a work in progress – probably after the election.”

On close examination, with the post implementation review, there were parts of the bill that proved not to have delivered what officials suggested, Mark said.

“The jury will be out on aspects [gun registration] of this bill for a while yet.”

Maybe after the election, some issues could be addresses, he said.

He took satisfaction that Labour agreed that police were not the best people to be administering firearms law going forward and there was a conflict of interest, he said.

When asked if the bill would pass before the election, Peters said party would go back to ask the National Party and the BB gun shooter from Epsom.

“Because in the end, this is about a parliamentary solution, and if they would accommodate us, then the answer will be yes. But we don’t know.”

Police Minister Stuart Nash announced there had been agreement to set up a new entity – something like the NZTA.

“I would not say it was pressure [from NZ First] I think we have worked very constructively with the NZ First caucus to land on this.”

He was more than happy for NZ First to take credit and say they had “worked absolutely constructively” as a coalition.

The idea of an independent authority was first proposed by Justice Sir Thomas Thorp in 1997, he said.

The entity will move some accountability for the Arms Act regulatory functions from police and would require standalone legislation and a dedicated budget.

“It’s important there is confidence in the administration and licensing of firearms laws, so police can focus on enforcement.”

Police Minister Stuart Nash said three years was not a target – it was the end point for the creation of the new independent entity.
Police Minister Stuart Nash said three years was not a target – it was the end point for the creation of the new independent entity.

More time would be needed to establish the registry because of the need to design and set up a standalone entity to administer the licensing system.

It will come into force in three years, rather than two years, after the Act comes into force.

But Nash said he “clearly” told Police Commissioner Andrew Coster on Monday that three years was not a target – it was the end point.

“If we can move this quicker, we absolutely will.”

The independent firearms advisory group will be appointed by the police minister rather than the police commissioner.

Nash said work was now underway on the design and framework for the agency and a report will go back to Cabinet with options before the end of the year.

Debate on the second tranche of gun law changes, which follow last year’s ban on assault rifles and military style semi-automatics, will resume in Parliament on Tuesday.

“We are clarifying the bill to address concerns raised by groups who made submissions, and there will also be some technical amendments,” Nash said.

There would be a very stringent process in place for farmers to prove they have a pest control problem that can only be solved by a prohibited firearm, he said.

“This doesn’t allow a farmer to go down to a shop and buy a gun.”

During the second reading of the Arms Legislation Bill in February, NZ First MP Ron Mark said the caucus had some reservations about the bill.

Another key concession was to allow the farming community, owners and managers of agricultural businesses to apply for endorsements to use prohibited firearms for pest control, without having to establish a company to carry out the work.

Other amendments include giving the government new powers to temporarily extend owners and dealers’ firearms licences in exceptional situations, such as a natural disaster or pandemic.

Police must (rather than may) issue permits to applicants who apply to import non-prohibited arms items and ammunition, providing they comply with any requirement to produce an approved sample.

The requirement for a review of the legislation now will be brought forward from five years to three years and must include a review of the registry and the offences and penalties in the Act.

National Party police spokesman Brett Hudson said he also had a number of amendments he wanted to make to the bill and one was an exemption for pest control for farmers.

“NZ First probably realised that some support they had in the past was going to desert them and it took them a late stage to make some changes.”

As for the independent entity, it was something National had some empathy for, he said.

ACT Leader David Seymour said he would be putting forward amendments that would delete the provisions dealing with a firearms register, regulations on clubs and ranges, and the doctor-patient relationship.

“NZ First has reached an agreement with Labour on the committee stage and there’s no doubt it will attempt to present itself as the saviour of the gun community.

“The reality is that Winston Peters has betrayed firearms owners. He put Labour in power and this Government scapegoated the firearms community in the wake of our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch.

“Any concessions he’s able to secure will never make up for the way his Government has treated law-abiding firearms owners.”