An increase in charges for firearms crimes in New Zealand, despite radical reforms introduced after the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019, has demonstrated the need for further restrictions, the government and activists agree.
The deaths of 51 people at the al-Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center two years ago led to a total ban on a range of semi-automatic rifles and large ammunition magazines and a gun buy-back plan, which removed some 60,000 weapons from the circulation.
But Radio New Zealand reported on Monday that the reform “has had no impact on an increase in crime and violence with firearms,” pointing to police statistics showing that charges reached a new peak in 2020. Almost 2,400 people were charged with 4,542 weapons-related crimes of fire, nearly double that of a decade earlier, while 1,862 firearms were seized under the Search and Surveillance Act, compared with 860 10 years ago.
Nicole McKee of the Act party, who strongly opposed the gun law reforms, told RNZ that the legislation was rushed through and that “the unintended consequences … are beginning to come true.”
But Gun Control NZ co-founder Philippa Yasbek, an economist and public health advocate, said the increase in charges reflected police taking firearm crimes more seriously. “The police are charging firearms crimes at a much higher rate than before, which we think is really positive,” he said.
“Opponents of gun control suggest that if a single narrow gun restriction does not show an immediate drop in all gun crime, then it is a failure,” said Philip Alpers, an Australian-based gun law expert. and director of GunPolicy.org. “… Sadly, the New Zealand police lost control of guns when they stopped registering 96% of firearms. Now it is the most common and unguarded firearms that almost invariably show up in everyday firearm crimes. “
Gang culture is reported to be on the rise in New Zealand, with police figures showing a 13% increase in recruits last year. in 2019 – which has been linked upon the arrival of gang members from Australia under the controversial 501 deportation policy.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on RNZ’s Morning Report that these new statistics only reinforce the government’s commitment to further firearms reform, as well as the crackdown on organized crime. “We have a growing problem with the use of weapons, particularly among our organized criminals, so, for me, that is more rational for the type of legislation that we have already implemented.”
Police had told him that “guns were increasingly present,” Ardern said. “We have withdrawn a particular form of weapon from circulation. But that does not mean, of course, that there are not yet weapons in use by the gangs, or that they are not available. … These are things that are going to take some time to change. “
Yasbek told The Guardian that the New Zealand government’s steps towards gun control were positive but needed to go further, with the backing of all parties. “Our new laws on firearms, although they are based on the Australian ones, are not that strict; we think our laws should be brought closer.”
In particular, Gun Control NZ is pushing for the national firearms registry, promised as part of the second round of reforms, which have yet to be implemented, to be established more quickly. Under the current schedule, registration is expected to take 10 years to complete.
Gun Control also wants to restrict the sale of ammunition to registered firearms; that licenses are renewed every five years, not every ten years; and some exemptions were eliminated.
Yasbek said the government appeared “reasonably committed” to gun control, but that there was a possibility that the political opposition would dilute the reforms. “The prime minister put a lot of her personal capital on the line with the change in the law … Ultimately, this has to be on all sides of the political spectrum, and I think that’s what made the reforms were so durable in Australia. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism