On March 15th, 2019 I was in a shop in Rangiora. As a Police patrol car went screaming past in the direction of Christchurch, lights and sirens blazing, doing about 160km/h in the fifty zone, I remember thinking there must have been a nasty prang somewhere just down the road, and hoping that no one had been too badly hurt.
That was the thing about Canterbury up until March 14th; it was the last place in the world that anyone might suggest as the scene for a major terrorist attack.
As information began to filter out, with each new detail worse than the last, it became clear that Christchurch, and New Zealand, had changed, massively, terribly, and forever.
Before the dead were even buried, Jacinda Ardern’s Government announced sweeping changes to New Zealand’s gun laws, to be implemented without delay. All of Parliament – save for the lone voice of sanity embodied by ACT’s David Seymour – got right in behind her, as did the Police and their union. ‘Military-grade assault rifles’ had no place in a civilized society, they chorused, and would be removed from private hands. This would be done, and it would be done before the week was out. Criminals would no longer have access to them, and New Zealanders would be SAFE from anything of the type ever happening again.
We have had the law changes. We have had the ‘buy-back’. The amnesty period is over. So, almost a year later, what has happened as a result?
The answer, I’m afraid, is nothing good.
Changes to New Zealand’s gun laws, widely regarded as the best in the world prior to the Mosque shootings, have utterly failed to address one single aspect of either the Christchurch events or crime in general. They have, however, turned quite literally hundreds of thousands of lawabiding New Zealand firearms licence holders into criminals.
This is not surprising, because they were never intended to do anything else. Changes to firearms laws have been, almost to the letter, exactly the same as proposals brought before the Law & Order Select Committee, by Police (who gave Brendan Tarrant his firearms licence) and the Police Association, almost four years earlier. I know because I was sitting in on that Committee. This is how they were able to put the legislation together so quickly – it was already written and waiting.
Criminals have not been disarmed. Patched gangs stated outright that they would not be handing in their guns, and Police and the Government simply sucked that up with barely a whimper.
The gun confiscation was an abysmal failure, as it was always going to be, and as I said at the time. Compliance was about 13% at best, and even then the figures have been fudged.
Neither Police nor the Government had any interest in listening to fact, logic, or even reason. Ministers ranted hysterically about ‘banning assault rifles’, seemingly incapable of understanding that such firearms have never been able to be legally owned by civilians in New Zealand. Their willful ignorance was breathtaking. The degree to which they revel in not knowing the first thing about guns, continues to appall everyone who does know the first thing.
The confiscations did nothing to address illegal weapons in criminal hands. Instead, they targeted duck shooting shotguns and .22 bunny rifles, ordinary hunting guns and relics from early wars. They targeted antiques and heirlooms, collector’s pieces and tools of trade.
Changes to New Zealand’s firearms laws, introduced in the wake of the Christchurch mass murder, were written by cynical activists within the New Zealand Police, passed by ignorant Parliamentarians interested only in international headlines, and trumpeted by left-wing journalists too arrogant and naïve to realise that they were the useful idiots of some greater disarmament agenda.
The law was never the problem. Rational people continue to not commit mass murder, irrespective of laws that criminals and the irrational, continue to ignore.
No-one is safer in New Zealand because of these changes. But worst of all, many thousands of previously law-abiding citizens have been turned into angry, disaffected people who now have no respect for a Police Force which they previously held in high regard. Criminals continue with their unlawful activities, still sourcing guns from overseas and not from legitimate owners, as was always the case, unworried by law changes that were never going to affect them.
And through it all, Police have continued to display the type of incompetence and bias that makes them wholly unsuited to administering something as important as firearms. They have lost guns from their own stations and vehicles, and the entire MSSA register, which held details of the 14,000-odd particular firearms they were specifically after in the first place – even though those firearms had never featured in the crime stats. They have been nasty, bullying, and intimidating in their dealings with ordinary gun owners, and weak and simpering in the face of organized crime. Certain senior Police have lied, repeatedly, to the media, and to Parliament; and all those lies have been accepted as gospel.
New Zealand has changed because of Christchurch – irrevocably, and very much for the worse.