Firearms registration facilitates firearms confiscation. This fact has been demonstrated in recent weeks, as the New Zealand authorities have lamented that the country does not have a firearms registry to assist them in their gun confiscation efforts.
Following a high-profile shooting in Christchurch, the New Zealand government enacted the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Act 2019. The legislation prohibited the sale and civilian possession of all centerfire semi-automatic rifles. Further, the bill banned semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns “that are capable of holding more than 5 cartridges commensurate with that firearm’s chamber size” or capable of accepting a detachable magazine. All detachable centerfire rifle magazines were also prohibited.
Otherwise law-abiding individuals found in unlawful possession of a newly-prohibited firearm face up to five years in prison. Those found in possession of a newly-prohibited magazine face up to two years imprisonment.
In order to enforce the new firearms prohibitions, New Zealand has undertaken an Australian-style confiscatory “buy-back” program that will run from June 20 through December 20. The use of the term “buy-back” is improper, as the government never owned the firearms it seeks to confiscate.
During the amnesty, owners will be forced to turn over their firearms to the government for fixed compensation. New Zealand police have announced a calendar of “local collection events” where gun owners can relinquish their property. Further, police have asked previously law abiding gun owners to use an online portal to notify law enforcement of their prohibited firearms. The government has published a confiscation price list based on make/model and condition of the firearm. Curious U.S. gun owners should note that as of July 3, 2019 the New Zealand dollar was worth approximately $0.67.
In order to possess most rifles and shotguns in New Zealand an individual is required to obtain a firearms license. However, the country does not require all rifles and shotguns to be registered. Pistols and firearms categorized as “military-style semiautomatics” (MSSAs) are subject to registration.
[For more information on New Zealand firearms law, readers are encouraged to visit the Library of Congress website]
This has created a policy dilemma for New Zealand’s gun control advocates. Without knowing how many newly-prohibited firearms are in the country or who owns them, there is no effective way for the anti-gun officials to enforce their ham-handed edicts.
Complaining that the lack of a registry would hamper enforcement, New Zealand Police Association President Chris Cahill told the press in May, “We really have no idea how many of these firearms are out there in New Zealand… Which really points to how bad our firearms legislation has been, that we have let this get out of control.”
Gun Control NZ co-founder Philippa Yasbek admitted that the lack of a registry will make the firearms confiscation plan she supports difficult. Yasbek was quoted by the Washington Post as stating, “These weapons are unlikely to be confiscated by police because they don’t know of their existence… These will become black-market weapons if their owners choose not to comply with the law and become criminals instead.” However, Yasbek and her anti-gun cohorts don’t plan to make this mistake again. At present. Gun Control NZ is advocating for a registry of all firearms and ammunition sales.
Without knowing how many firearms they might need to forcibly purchase, the New Zealand government has allocated NZ$208 million ($139.5 million) to the confiscation scheme. Some pro-gun advocates have placed the necessary funding at closer to NZ$500 million ($335 million).
Even with the massive sum allocated to the confiscation effort, it appears that the fixed compensation prices will not entice many gun owners. Council of Licenced Firearms Owners spokeswoman Nicole McKee told the New Zealand Herald that "Some of the offered prices for higher-end firearms are well out of kilter. We're talking thousands of dollars." Mckee went on to add, “The Government kept saying they weren't going to rip us off. They said they would pay full value. They're not, and 250,000 [firearms licence holders] are starting to feel ripped off.” Gun store owner David Tipple was quoted by the paper as calling some of the offered prices “horrible robbery.” New Zealand MP Christopher Bishop was quoted by Radio New Zealand as stating, “Because we're asking thousands of people to turn up to these mass collection events and hand over their firearms to the police and if they don't believe they're getting a fair price people simply won't do it… That will undermine the whole intent of the buyback scheme itself."