RESPONSIBLE: Competitive shooter Matt Bullen is concerned about the impact gun law changes will have on the sport he loves. Photo supplied
  •  Recreational gun owners not the problem

GUN laws should be tightened but this is the wrong way, one gun owner says.

Competitive shooter and member of the Awakeri Shooting Federation, Matt Bullen, is concerned about the Government’s “knee-jerk” reaction to gun laws and would prefer to see a more sustained approach.

He also believes there is no evidence that changing gun laws, to be more in line with Australia, will make New Zealand a safer country and instead it will impact on the competitive shooters who regularly represent New Zealand well on the worldwide stage.

Four days after the Christchurch terror attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned all “military-style” semi-automatics and high-capacity magazines.

An amnesty is currently in place for gun owners to hand in their banned guns to police, but some feel unfairly targeted by the change in law.

“It isn’t fair that law-abiding, responsible gun owners have been made criminals overnight,” Mr Bullen said.

“The ones that are good gun owners now, will be the ones handing their guns in, it won’t make any difference to the ones the Government should be targeting.”

Mr Bullen has researched the circumstances in which the Christchurch gunman obtained his gun licence and said he was concerned at the lack of due diligence shown.

He said that despite the gunman living in Dunedin he applied, and was approved for, a gun licence in Waikato. He also said the gunman’s references were simply online chatroom friends and were not people who knew him personally or lived with him, as was the usual process.

To own his pistols Mr Bullen must hold a “B” endorsement gun licence and have the gun licensing officer visit and check his home every year. In comparison a general gun licence holder will only be visited by the licensing officer once every 10 years.

“While I don’t agree with banning weapons, I do think this is something that should be looked at,” Mr Bullen said.

“A lot can change in 10 years, you can have a brain injury, become addicted to drugs or have a marriage break-up. You might not be the same person the licensing officer first saw within a couple of years.”

One of his main concerns is the effect the ban could have on a sport he loves which he regards as a “lifestyle” rather than a hobby.

Mr Bullen competes with a pump-action rifle in speed-shooting against people who own AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, the same gun the Christchurch gunman used, and consistently comes out top.

Despite being able to fire as many rounds as a semi-automatic, and almost as quickly, Mr Bullen’s pump-action rifle has not been included in the Government’s ban. Instead he will have to reduce the size of his magazine from seven to five rounds.

More important to Mr Bullen than his own success though, is the international sporting success of New Zealand.

“New Zealanders are well represented in the Olympics for shooting and it is one of the main programmes in which New Zealanders bring home medals,” he said.

“New Zealanders also do well in events organised by the International Practical Shooting Confederation. With these changes, competitors will not be able to use firearms which are common in these competitions. There’s already been some talk that serious competitors will have to move overseas to continue to compete in their sport.”

In addition to the effect the changes might have on shooting competitors, Mr Bullen believes it will have no effect on gun crime in New Zealand.

In the past 10 years there have been 76 murders or manslaughters committed with a gun. Of these 76, only seven were committed by registered gun owners.

“The gun crime in New Zealand is already very low, this is an anomaly,” Mr Bullen said.

“The gun crime will remain low following these changes and they’ll point to it being a success, but that won’t be accurate because it was already low.

“They say they’ll follow Australia’s lead, and this will prevent this from happening again, but nine people were shot in Melbourne over the past 30 days, it has made no difference at all.

“Many people make the argument ‘why do you need those guns?’ And it’s the same reason somebody wants to drive a V8. No, you don’t really need them, but you enjoy having them and it’s a hobby and lifestyle.

“Cars kill far more people than guns do, yet we’re not telling people they can’t own V8s. In fact, nine people were killed on the roads last weekend.

ON TARGET: Matt Bullen competes with both a pump-action rifle and a pistol at shooting events throughout New Zealand. Photo supplied

“This is a knee-jerk reaction and the Government needs to slow down and consider what will actually make lasting change instead of leaving all these guns in the hands of criminals who are the ones who will keep them.”

Mr Bullen is also concerned a family heirloom could be destroyed in the Government’s crackdown on guns.

A replica of the 1918 gun his great-grandfather used in World War I may be included in the banned weapons list and Mr Bullen said it would be “devastating” to see it cut into three pieces and thrown away.

“It is absolutely devastating what happened in Christchurch, no gun owner wanted or expected that to happen.

“But that is not us, we are not represented by this one guy.

“We need to look at who is owning these guns rather than the guns themselves.”

Gun laws pass through Parliament

GUN owners who have firearms the Government is banning will have until September 30 to hand over their unlawful weapons, parts, magazines and ammunition to police.

Cabinet approved the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment bill on Monday and it had its first reading yesterday.

It is expected the select committee will report back on April 8 and the bill will pass into law on April 11, coming into force the following day on April 12.

The bill will include new offences such as, using a prohibited firearm to resist arrest which will be punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment, unlawful possession of a prohibited firearm which will be punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, selling or importing a prohibited firearm which will be punishable by up to five years imprisonment and possessing or supplying a prohibited part or magazine which will be punishable by up to two years imprisonment.

The Government is still working through the details of a buy-back scheme which is expected to cost up to $200 million. Although, in an interview given on Tuesday Acting Prime Minster Winston Peters said it could cost up to $300 million.

The Government is also expected to bring in a second round of changes to gun laws later in the year.

It is expected the Government will consider whether a national register of firearms is needed, a review will be held on the vetting process for a “fit and proper” person to obtain a gun licence as well as the police inspection and monitoring regime, including rules around storage.

Around 200 firearms have been handed over to police so far, including three in Whakatane.

New prohibitions

PROHIBITED firearms include semi-automatic and military style automatics (MSSAs), and shotguns with detachable magazines or internal magazines which hold more than five rounds.

Prohibited magazines include those holding more than five cartridges for a shotgun, more than 10 cartridges for a .22 calibre rimfire weapon and any other magazine capable of holding more than 10 cartridges.

Prohibited parts include any component of a prohibited firearm or any component that can enable a firearm to be used as a semi-automatic or fully automatic weapon. Examples could include bump stocks, fire-standing pistol grips and silencers.

Prohibited ammunition will include certain types of military ammunition as defined by the Governor General through the Order in Council. Examples could include amour piercing ammunition.