29 Feb 2024

PM won't rule out changes to semi-automatic gun laws

5:20 am on 29 February 2024
Christopher Luxon

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says 'no discussion's been had' on the changes to gun laws. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The Prime Minister is refusing to rule out changing semi-automatic gun laws, saying no decisions have been made on the issue.

The government is rewriting the Arms Act this term - changes that may include allowing competitive shooters access to military style guns for sport.

Christopher Luxon came under pressure to spell out his position on the proposed change in Question Time yesterday.

"Why won't he rule out liberalising access to military style semi-automatic weapons when the police have made it very clear to the government - both present and former - that doing so would result in more of those weapons getting into the hands of gang members and others who intend to break the law?" Opposition leader Chris Hipkins asked.

"Because no papers have been received, no discussion's been had and no decision has been made in Cabinet," Luxon replied.

Military-style weapons were banned several days after the Christchurch mosque shootings with near-unanimous support from MPs.

Nicole McKee

Associate Justice Minister Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Associate Justice Minister Nicole McKee said people would still need a legitimate reason to have a centre-fire semi-automatic firearm under her rewrite.

The ACT MP said higher security and storage would be required and large capacity magazines would still be unavailable to those without the vetted endorsement.

McKee pointed to those who still owned high-powered guns after the massacre, through either the pest control or collector's item exemptions.

"Semi-automatics were never banned. They've always been there. We've got 6600 people legitimately in possession of them," she said.

"What is important for our Muslim communities and all of those that have been harmed by gun crime is that we have legislation in place that keeps them safe and that's what we plan on doing."

Muslim leaders from the Islamic Women's Council and the Federation of Islamic Associations of New Zealand (FIANZ) have told RNZ they don't want semi-automatic laws changed.

FIANZ chair Abdur Razzaq said it was not worth the risk and it was a sensitive time for those affected by the Christchurch mosque shootings.

"We are not against guns per se...but to raise this at a few days out from the day a terrorist killed 51 people and wounded 40 more is absolutely incomprehensible."

The ACT Party got a rewrite of the Arms Act through its coalition agreement with National - though what these news laws look like will be up to all three parties in Cabinet.

Hipkins - who was a Cabinet minister when semi-automatics were banned - is adamant the former government made the right decision.

"I'm open to having conversations about recreational shooting and whether the regulation on rifle ranges went to far and so on; totally open to having that debate.

"But the debate around semi-automatic weapons I think has been resolved; we shouldn't have them."

It is expected legislation will be introduced before the end of this year.

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