Was the Gun Buyback really a success?

On December 20, 2019, the much-heralded amnesty and gun buyback scheme came to an end.

The scheme was launched when authorities banned semi-automatic weapons in response to the killing of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, 2019.

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The scheme and six-month amnesty was put in place after gun law reforms (supported by all parties except ACT) banned most military-style semi-automatic (MSSA) firearms, weeks after the shootings.

In one report, NZ Police say that more than 56,000 weapons and another 190,000 parts were surrendered and handed in to authorities in New Zealand during the six-month amnesty.

The scheme, launched in April 2019 was that, in return for handing in of firearms, owners were compensated up to 95 per cent of the weapon's original price.

Police hail it as a success. Now the amnesty is over, Police Minister Stuart Nash said:

"There had been a last-minute surge in the past fortnight as people had come forward to do the right thing and more than 56,346 prohibited and unlawful firearms have so far been removed from circulation, through the buyback and amnesty, as well as through modifications by approved gunsmiths at Government expense. 31,650 people participated in the buyback and deserve credit and acknowledgement. They have been paid almost $100 million in compensation. Almost 188,000 prohibited parts are no longer in the community."

But of those "56,346 guns" we now find only 9532 handed in were actually MSSAs?

At the halfway stage of the amnesty collection, in September, Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement updated progress to a parliamentary select committee, by saying "12,621 people have handed in 19,837 firearms and 73,949 parts and $36.7 million has been paid out." "But of the 14,000 or so MSSAs that are registered with police, 2500 have been handed in."

From the figures, I do believe that of the 56,346 that were handed in, 46,814 firearms were not MSSAs, the majority were guns of the type more likely to be the regular .303 rifles, .22 rifles, various gauge shot guns and collection guns - hardly prohibited or unlawful.

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The amnesty and payout being taken advantage of by law abiding citizens, retired farmers, ex-hunters, ex duck-shooters and collectors who realised that the one-off price offered, would never be achieved, nor repeated again.

We now know that police can confirm they can account for 15,037 E-category or MSSAs as; 9532 have been handed in, 4277 firearms have been retained and have exemptions for various reasons and 1228 firearms are held by 851 people that police have contacted to follow up.

I think Nash should have been talking about the total 56,346 guns handed in and received rather than stating them all to be "Prohibited and illegal".

I know the government had to start somewhere to bring guns under more control after March 15, but has this amnesty and buyback really been a success?

The fact is that Mike Clement cited estimates at the start that put the number of now-banned firearms between 56,000 and 173,000, while other police estimates were of 240,000, a figure not disputed by Clement, though he added that the true number was simply unknown.

I think we are still a very, very, long way from New Zealand being made a safer place.

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Chris Geddis is a local historian and photographer, and a former accountant at the Napier Daily Telegraph.
CLARIFICATION
This Talking Point written by Chris Geddis states the following:
"From the figures, I do believe that of the 56,346 that were handed in, 46,814 firearms were not MSSAs. The majority were guns of the type more likely to be the regular .303 rifles, .22 rifles, various gauge shot guns and collection guns - hardly prohibited or unlawful. The amnesty and payout was taken advantage of by law abiding citizens, retired farmers, ex-hunters, ex-duck shooters and collectors who realised that the one-off price offered would never be repeated."
Hawke's Bay Today wishes to clarify that all of the 56,346 guns handed in were illegal - they just didn't happen to all be MSSAs. Legal guns could be handed in during the amnesty, but owners were not paid for them.