In the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shooting in March Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a knee-jerk reaction decreed that she would see the law changed to ban military style weapons of the kind the gunman had used.

After an absurdly short time allowed for submissions from interested parties, the Government, with the aid of the opposition, changed the law to ban the ownership of not only such weapons, but more than five shot magazines and other such attachments to rifles and shotguns.

While I do not necessarily believe that military style weapons in private hands were any particular danger to human life in this country despite having been principally designed as a killing weapon, nonetheless the Government and Stuart Nash as Minister of Police insisted they were a threat.

Very fortunately we are a country that does not have a particularly bad record of mass deaths involving firearms of any description, and I am far more concerned with the road toll and the unfortunate level of suicide.

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For instance, in the fortnight following the mosque shooting 23 people died as a result of injuries on our roads and have continued to die all too often since, a point well made by Dr John Battersby in a article in the HB Today on August 19 on firearms regulation.

Vehicles of all descriptions on the nation's roads have the potential to kill or harm and frequently do but do we consider banning the likes of sports cars because of their potential to cause harm? No we do not.

The point I am endeavouring to make is that largely the guns, as with vehicles, are not necessarily the problem. It is the person pulling the trigger or behind the wheel we should be more concerned about and what influences they may be under, and while the Government is committing more funding to improved road safety, road deaths are still occurring too often.

The effects of alcohol and drugs on drivers is well known and suicide continues at an unacceptable level.

The current gun amnesty introduced by police has caused a number of guns of various descriptions to be forfeited in good faith, I suspect, by mostly law abiding citizens who, I understand in many cases are receiving values far and above what those guns may have cost initially.

While police have commented on the numbers of weapons confiscated from the criminal fraternity in recent months, they are very unlikely to know the full extent of the numbers of unauthorised or illegal weapons still in the community.

The proposed gun register is very unlikely to improve that situation. The millions of dollars being paid out in compensation could be put to far better use in the community.

That the second tranche of proposed firearms regulations has been opposed by the opposition is commendable in that a number of the proposals seek to limit and apply further regulation to areas that have not previously been of concern.

The NZ Clay Target Association has formulated a response on behalf of its members as to the restrictions and added expense to law abiding New Zealand gun owners
that these proposals, should they become law, will add to their costs and enjoyment of their involvement with firearms, whether they be recreational hunters, clay-target or small arms competitors.

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As a holder of a firearms licence for close to 50 years I have been involved for the past 11 years as manager of a college clay-target team whereby students shooting often come with previous experience of firearms and an awareness of the protocols around their safe use and enjoyment of guns and clay-target shooting.

At no time during those 11 years do I recall any serious incident involving students and their guns.

At the recent NZ Secondary Schools Championships in the Waikato 327 students enjoyed a competition shooting with guns being secured between shoots and no presence of police which leads me to the conclusion that this is not an area of firearms use, run under strict supervision that the police have need to be concerned about.

To my certain knowledge over the past 11 years no student has died while involved with shooting, whether it be schools or club shoots, yet I wonder in that same time how many of our young folk have been involved in or died as a result of a road accident?

There are many in this country who use guns for hunting, competition shooting or recreation on a regular basis and they should not necessarily be penalised or restricted in their mostly responsible use of firearms by the actions of one lone foreign gunman.


Ralph Harper is a retired sheep and cattle farmer living in Havelock North who continues to manage a college shooting team among other activities and takes an active interest in both local and national issues.