Parliament is working on progressing a piece of legislation much faster than usual drawing both criticism and support.
The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill will likely be passed in by Friday 12 April.
The bill is a result of a Government pledge to change gun laws after attacks on two mosques in Christchurch last month in which 50 people were killed.
The Bill will:
- Restrict access to the number of assault rifles and MSSAs, associated parts, and large-capacity magazines.
- Ban parts of a prohibited firearms or any part that can enable a weapon to be fired as a semi-automatic or fully automatic firearm.
- allow for a small number of tightly controlled exemptions for professional animal cullers and licensed firearms dealers and bona fide collectors including museums and for film and theatre companies
- introduce a number of new offences. This includes possessing, using, presenting, supplying, selling, manufacturing, and assembling a banned firearm. The offences attract penalties ranging from up to three years' imprisonment to 10 years' imprisonment depending on the nature and seriousness of the offence.
- allow for an amnesty for returning firearms and a buy back scheme
Last Tuesday, the first sitting day of the week, Mr Hipkins made a point of order shortly after the prayer was given at 2pm.
We’ll break it down into parts but first, here it is in full:
“I seek leave for the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill to be set down for first reading after general business today, despite Standing Order 285(1)(b); for there to be no debate on the instruction to the select committee to consider the bill despite Standing Order 290; for the bill to be available for second reading on Tuesday, 9 April, despite Standing Order 296; should the member in charge desire, for the bill to be set down for the committee of the whole House forthwith, following the second reading, despite Standing Order 299; and for the bill to be set down for third reading forthwith, following the committee stage, despite Standing Order 310.”
Point of Order
Before any of this could be said, Mr Hipkins said “point of order.” A point of order is a way for an MP to interrupt what is going on and ask for something.
The speaker will normally repeat the words “point of order” and the MP’s name.
Usually, it’s about the rules, called standing orders; someone may have broken the rules or an MP might like to break them.
Points of order can be raised at any time but commonly appear during question time when an MP is complaining a Minister hasn’t answered a question or when an MP would like to table a document.
“I seek leave”
Seeking leave is just asking the House for permission to do something.
Chris Hipkins is asking the House for permission to put aside the normal rules (standing orders) to pass the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill more quickly.
The whole House has to agree that this can happen; If one person objects, then the request is denied.
The first standing order Mr Hipkins asked to ignore was a rule that a bill can’t have its first reading on the same day it’s introduced (Standing Order 285(1)(b);). but he also listed some others.
“No debate on the instruction”
Normally a select committee would consider a bill for four to six months. During that time they’d call for submissions and arrange to hear from some submitters in person.
After that, a report would be written for the House summarising those views and the views of MPs on the committee.
Mr Hipkins asked for no-one to debate an instruction to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee to report back on the bill by Monday 8th of April, - in just under a week.
The short report time of this committee has drawn both support and criticism.
“Bill to be available for second reading on Tuesday, 9 April, despite Standing Order 296”
Mr Hipkins also asked for another rule to be overlooked in favour of a quick turnaround.
Normally there are three days between a select committee report being presented to the House and a bill’s second reading. This is mainly so MPs have time to read it.
But there’s no time for that if the bill is to be passed by Friday so that rule was set aside as well.
“Despite Standing Order 299...despite Standing Order 310.”
Again, asking for a speedier process. A bill normally can’t go through more than one stage on a sitting day so the House has to say it’s ok for the committee stage, and third reading to happen straight after each other if the Minister in charge wishes.
Once Mr Hipkins had finished asking for these rules to be broken the Speaker Trevor Mallard asked the House if there was any objection.
If one person objected then the leave would have been denied.
ACT Party Leader David Seymour had said he would object to this leave but was not in the chamber to do so at the time.
If leave was denied, the Government could have moved to pass the bill under urgency which only requires a majority of support in the House instead of everyone.
“I move the bill be read a first time”
The bill’s first reading took place after question time and its sponsor, the Minister of Police Stuart Nash had the job of formally starting the debate:
“I move, That the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill be now read a first time,” he said.
First reading debates consist of 12 speeches of up to 10 minutes in length. It’s a chance for the bill’s purpose to be outlined and initial support or concerns to be raised before it’s referred to a select committee for consideration.
The bill passed its first reading with only ACT MP David Seymour opposing it.
Public consultation - Select Committee
At the bill’s first reading it was also agreed that the select committee process could be shorter than usual.
That process started the same day with the Finance and Expenditure Committee meeting at 5pm on Tuesday for a Police Demonstration on how firearms can be modified.
The Committee continued to hear from other submitters over the following days including the Police Association’s President Chris Cahill who told the committee the legislation isn’t being rushed.
“We’ve been far too slow. We’re well over 20 years too slow. Never again should New Zealanders regret that we failed to act on gun reform,” he said.
“We’ll be failing future New Zealanders if we don’t act and act quickly.”
Select committees are also a chance for MPs to question the submitters.
Green MP Chloe Swarbrick asked Mustafa Farouk from the Federation of Islamic Associations New Zealand to expand on what action is needed now.
“Whatever action is required to make sure that such individuals are not able to go to a marae, to go to a synagogue, to go to a temple and do what they did on 15 March 2019, whatever it takes,” he said.
“Because if I can trust our police officers on the street without any arms at all to protect me, why should anybody have anything more than that?”
Following Dr Farouk was Gun City owner David Tipple who was asked by National MP Judith Collins how many firearms similar to that used in the Christchurch mosque attacks have been sold since15 March.
“I don’t have any figures for that but it would be dozens not hundreds,” said Mr Tipple.
“Do you think you should have warned people that these would be made illegal?” asked Ms Collins.
“I think that what was likely to happen to the firearms was made very clear,” Mr Tipple answered.
Submissions could be made through Parliament’s Website up until 6pm last Thursday and the committee will meet on Monday 8 April to hear from more submitters in person.
Its report is due back to the House the following day on Tuesday 9 April when the bill is likely to have its second reading.