Proposed New Zealand law says owning guns is not a right
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s government is planning further restrictions to gun ownership in a law proposed Monday that emphasizes owning guns is a privilege and not a right.
The new law would ban the sale of guns to overseas visitors, create a register to track all guns in the country, and require gun owners to renew their gun licenses every five years instead of every 10. It would also allow police to weigh other factors such as a person’s mental health and even what they had been posting on social media to determine whether they were fit to own a gun.
The government hopes lawmakers will approve the legislation by the end of the year.
The proposed measures come after New Zealand in April rushed through legislation to ban so-called military-style weapons such as AR-15 style rifles after a lone gunman in March killed 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.
The government has launched a buyback scheme to compensate people for the outlawed semi-automatics, and has so far collected and destroyed more than 3,200 weapons. The gun buyback and amnesty runs until December.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she thinks the vast majority of New Zealanders disagree with the U.S. model under which gun ownership is seen as a constitutional right and is interpreted by many to be a defense against potential government overreach.
Ardern said that growing up in a rural farming area, she always understood New Zealanders had a practical need for owning guns.
“But at the same time I don’t think that extends to this view that every New Zealand citizen has the need and right to generally arm itself,” she said. “We’re a society that I think has always drawn that very clear distinction.”
She said that, for instance, there was no plan to arm New Zealand police, who typically patrol without carrying guns.
“I think we do see a difference between who we are as a society and the way that our police force works — and others,” Ardern said.
People with recent serious convictions are banned from owning guns. The new law would also allow police to investigate others and potentially ban them for reasons such as if they were promoting violence or extremism, had serious mental health issues, or had attempted suicide.
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the legislation would allow police to monitor people’s social media accounts to determine whether they were fit to own weapons.
“What we do know is that the Christchurch terrorist was engaged on some sites which were promoting some pretty horrific material,” Nash said. “So that’s one thing police will have the ability to assess when they determine if someone is fit and proper to have a firearms license.”
The new legislation is expected to be introduced into the Parliament next month. It would go out for three months of public feedback before being voted on for a final time by lawmakers.
The idea of a gun register is opposed by some groups including the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners and by conservative politician David Seymour.
“Criminals, of course, will not register their guns, making the exercise almost worthless,” Seymour said in a statement.
Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, has pleaded not guilty to terrorism, murder and attempted murder charges following the March attacks. He remains in jail ahead of his trial, which has been scheduled for next May.