Last week National outlined a number of proposed changes to the Arms Legislation Bill which had its first reading in the House last week and has been sent to the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee for consideration. I am a member of that select committee and I'm looking forward to hearing the many submissions.
In April of this year National supported the Arms (Prohibited firearms, magazines and parts) Amendment Act, which banned all assault rifles and was introduced following the tragic Christchurch shootings.
The Arms Legislation Bill represents the second stage of gun reforms. According to the notes accompanying the bill, it aims "to improve public safety by adjusting legislative frameworks to impose tighter controls on the use and possession of arms". It would appear the Government has unduly focused responsibility and regulation on law abiding gun owners – and hasn't done enough to address access to guns by gangs and those involved in criminal activity.
As a party we would like to see some changes before considering our support of this piece of legislation and we have proposed a number reforms.
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In the weekend I attended the annual Sika Show and Competition, which was held at the Great Lake Centre in Taupo. It is the largest hunting focused show; and also the biggest outdoor trade show of its kind in New Zealand. More than 6000 hunters visited the show over the two days for the competitions, taxidermy and the latest innovations in hunting and outdoor-related products and services.
I was there with a few National Party colleagues including Brett Hudson, Todd McClay, Louise Upston, Barbara Kuriger and Andrew Bayly to get feedback on the changes we have laid out as requirements for our support of the latest tranche of firearms reforms.
Our ideas are sensible and pragmatic, and there was a lot of support for them from those at the Sika Show. Conversations highlighted other issues within the bill too. It is feedback that will be especially valuable for all of us on the select committee.
The general consensus was that firearms' owners are worried the Government is trying to drive a wedge between them and non-firearms users. They are fearful that these reforms are a stepping stone to further squeezing of their hunting, sport and recreation activities. They feel the reforms are being done to them, rather than with them.
Everyone raised concerns that the bill is adding regulation, responsibility and cost on people who already obey the law, while doing nothing of substance to combat genuine criminal and gang activity.
The Government has the opportunity to work with us to deliver an amended bill which will address criminal behaviour and help to keep the public safe, while not overburdening those who already follow the rules. This will allow delivery on the purpose of the bill; while at the same time ensuring consensus between firearm-owners and non-owners.
The weekend show was busy and it was impossible to ignore the sentiments of the recreational hunters in attendance who clearly feel completely disaffected by the proposed further changes to the Arms legislation. We stand ready to do what is right and to work with the Government to do so with broad consensus.
Please feel free to contact my Electorate offices in Feilding or Taumarunui if you would like more specific details regarding National's proposed changes to the Bill.