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New Zealand Bans All Semi-Automatic Rifles in Wake of Mass Shooting

By: Robert Davis

A lone gunman killed 50 worshipers at two mosques in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand last week, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern just announced a ban on “sales of ‘military-style’ semi-automatic firearms and high-capacity magazines” nation-wide, CBSNews reports.

Ardern said the sales ban was effective immediately to prevent stockpiling and would be followed by a complete ban on the weapons after new laws were rushed through.

She said people could hand over their guns under an amnesty while officials develop a formal buyback scheme, which could cost up to 200 million New Zealand dollars ($140 million).

Shooter Bought Non-Semi-Autos Legally
According to multiple reports, the New Zealand shooter bought his guns legally. WFLA reports:

The owner of Christchurch’s “Gun City” store said it sold four guns and ammunition to the alleged mosque shooter through a “police-verified online mail order process.”
David Tipple said in a statement that he has provided police with the purchase records and full details of the sales, which did not include military-style semi-automatic weapons.

A report from The New York Times declares “an extraordinary number of people own weapons, with few restrictions” in New Zealand. And although the Times reports, “There is no dispute that acquiring a military-style semi-automatic weapon is relatively easy in New Zealand…”

Gunpolicy.org, however, classifies the regulation of guns in New Zealand as “restrictive.” And a 2012 article from the Seattle Globalist explained in detail the process of obtaining a firearm in New Zealand, which the author described as “long, complicated, and expensive.”

The Globalist article noted:

…The interview was intense and personal. I observed the Arms Officer taking notice of the general state of our home as well as our demeanor. He confirmed we had a lockable cabinet for firearm storage, and separate lockable storage for ammunition. He asked pointed questions about alcohol and drug consumption, our domestic situation and our general mental health.

He also asked what we intended to use firearms for. Hint: personal or home protection is not an accepted rationale and would likely get you rejected – acceptable reasons are limited to hunting and/or target shooting.

Vox.com, too, calls New Zealand’s gun laws “strict,” and explains:

In New Zealand, people first have to obtain a license to legally purchase, own, and possess a gun. A license applicant is vetted to check for a criminal record, a history of violence, drug and alcohol use, and relationships with potentially dangerous people, among other factors. The applicant also must go through a firearms safety course. That all typically takes months to get through.

Once a person makes it through the process, he’s allowed to purchase guns and ammo — although some types of firearms, like handguns and certain semiautomatic rifles, require “endorsements” from police and separate permits to purchase. There are also extra storage and inspection requirements.

The licenses have to be renewed every 10 years, and police can revoke a person’s license if that person is believed to no longer be fit for ownership and may pose a threat.

Gun sellers are also licensed and regulated by police.

The 1992 Arms Amendment Act and the 1992 Arms Regulations Act created the country’s five-tier gun licensing classification system. The five license classifications for gun owners are A, B, C, D, and E, each of which is more restrictive than its predecessor.

Guns ‘Plentiful,’ Crime Low
“…Guns are plentiful,” in New Zealand, the Times reports. “According to a 2017 small arms survey, there are more than 1.2 million firearms among the population of 4.6 million.”

That amounts to one firearm for every four people, according to the BBC. Does the abundance of guns mean New Zealand has an insanely high violent crime rate? Quite the opposite, actually.

Mass shootings are a rare occurrence in New Zealand. The last mass shooting in the country happened in 1990, when a lone gunman killed 13 people in Aramoana before he was killed by police.

More broadly, violent crime itself is rare on the island.

“In general, most members of the public do not encounter firearms or feel threatened by firearms as they go about their normal daily activity,” reads a statement from Police Minister Stewart Nash. “Violent crime offences caused by firearms has remained relatively low at around 1.4 percent.”

Banning Guns Doesn’t Work
Banning certain types of guns has proven to be ineffective in countries all around the world, as John Lott, economist and President of the Crime Prevention Research Center, recently pointed out to The Daily Signal

I think there are a few simple types of questions you can ask people. If they believe that guns, on net, cause problems, ask them to point to one country in the world that’s banned guns, either all guns or all handguns, and seen the murder rates stay the same or go down. I can’t find a country, or a place, where that’s happened.
You can look at island nations that have banned guns, and what you find, whether it be Jamaica, or the Republic of Ireland, or the U.K., their homicide rates went up significantly, sometimes six, sevenfold increases, after they banned guns.

And there’s a simple reason why that’s the case. And that is, when you pass any gun control law, you have to ask yourself, “Who’s most likely to obey it?”

… If I go and ban guns, it’s going to basically be the most law-abiding, good people who are going to turn them in, not the criminals. I mean, you may take some guns away from the criminals, but if you primarily disarm law-abiding citizens, you’re actually going to make it relatively easier for criminals to go and commit crimes.
And people may point to Australia or something, Australia didn’t ban guns. Their firearm homicide and firearm suicide rates were falling for 15 years prior to the buyback that they had in ’96 and ’97, and it continued falling afterward, but actually at a much slower rate than it was falling beforehand. So, if anything, it looks like it actually was detrimental to the decline that they were having in those types of rates up until the buyback.

And in addition, they didn’t ban guns in Australia. What they did was they bought them back. But people, after the buyback, were allowed to go and buy guns again. And by 2010, the gun ownership rate in Australia was significantly above where it was prior to the buyback. So, it doesn’t fit any of their stories.

Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with tips or comments at RobertDavis0414@gmail.com or on Twitter @Davisonthebeat.

Photo By James Case from Philadelphia, Mississippi, U.S.A. - Ruger AR-556, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66869476

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.