Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Getting the facts right


(I have been going through the hundreds of unpublished articles that I had originally intended to post to this blog, but for many reasons I never completed. Most are being deleted as they are no longer relevant or have been said better elsewhere. A few are worthy of resuscitation, and while this article composed in August 2020 refers to a specific event, the message I intended to convey still holds true today.)

It’s really no wonder some people dream up some very imaginative scenarios based on so called reliable media sources. It only takes a minor error or oversight in reporting to give others a completely false idea.

Take for example this article from Reuters on 21 August 2020 which includes the statement “The attack led to a ban on firearms in New Zealand“. No it didn’t. This is a case of sloppy reporting by a reputable news organisation, and it’s the type of wildly inaccurate reporting that gets blown out of proportion by those living in other parts of the world, and in particular by the pro gun lobby in America.

I don’t intend this article to either an argument for or against the ownership of firearms, although I should state that I support strong gun control. I’m going to assume that the majority of those who believe in the right to bear arms are reasonable and rational beings. In the US, the courts have determined that the constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, and I have no intention to argue that.

Not only are our laws irrelevant to the situation in America, our laws do not not impinge on our freedom nor our personal safety. But first some myths that require correcting.

How many guns in New Zealand?

That question cannot be answered with any certainty. A firearms licence is required to own a gun or to use a gun without supervision, but up to now there has been no gun registration regime in this country. So what facts are known?

  • Best estimates of the number of guns legitimately in circulation in New Zealand is somewhere between 1,200,000 and 1,500,000 guns of all types.
  • There are approximately 250,000 licensed firearm owners.
  • The number of guns estimated to be affected by the law change was somewhere between 50,000 and 150,000. It was not possible to get a more accurate picture as guns are not registered.
  • Approximately 57,000 guns were handed in during the government buy-back scheme.
  • Not all licensed firearm owners own a gun. Many hold a license in order to be able to use a gun in the course of their employment (pest control, hunting tour guides for example) or for recreational hunting. In such case the guns may be owned by an employer or a recreational group.
  • The carrying of any weapon for the purpose of self defence is not lawful in this country. That applies to knives, pepper spray, bows and arrows, and baseball bats just as much as it does to guns. Even carrying a screwdriver for the purpose of self defence is illegal. The law change does not alter this.

The first mistake the pro gun lobby make is to assume that one in four Kiwis own a gun. This is patently false. They get this figure by dividing the population (5 million) by the estimated number of guns (1.25 million), completely ignoring the fact that there are only 250,000 registered gun owners. A more accurate figure is one in twenty Kiwis hold a firearms license and even fewer actually own a firearm. Those who do hold a firearms licence own many guns.

Inaccurate reporting has resulted in two distinct and contradictory perceptions by many Americans.

  1. All guns have been confiscated and Kiwis are “defenceless” against criminals and an authoritarian government
  2. Kiwis thumbed their noses at gun confiscation and the government’s ban has been a complete failure.

The myth that Kiwis have had their guns confiscated is widespread on the internet. Confiscation was never the intent – only specific types of guns, perhaps 5% of those in circulation were re-classified so that they could not be legally owned on a category A firearms licence, and the government offered a buy back scheme for those affected. In fact the estimated number of guns in circulation still remains about the same as before, as has been stated previously the estimated number of firearms in circulation vary by 300,000 or more.

The pro gun lobby also get the facts wrong when they refer to the “failure” of the government buyback scheme after those guns were reclassified. Remember that the number of firearms in circulation that were reclassified is unknown but estimates vary between 50,000 and 150,000.

Around 57,000 weapons were handed in during the buyback amnesty period. The reasons why the pro gun lobby argue it was a failure are based on erroneous calculations.

  • Few Kiwis handed in their guns: This argument assumes there was requirement for all gun owners to hand in all their guns. They compare their estimated (but wildly inaccurate) number of gun owners in the country (1.25 million) and the number of guns handed in (57 thousand). Using this calculation they claim that less than 5% of gun owners handed in their weapons and that 95% of NZ gun owners have thumbed their nose at the government. This is the stance taken by the NRA.
  • Few guns were handed in: Again an error based on the basis that all guns had to be handed in. They compare the estimated number of guns (1.25 million) and the number handed in (57 thousand) and conclude that less than 5% of all guns were handed in.

Their conclusion is that the citizens of Aotearoa New Zealand are openly defying draconian regulations imposed by a fascist/Marxist/authoritarian government hell bent on eliminating the last of our few remaining freedoms. This is just as false as the belief that all guns have been confiscated.

There is more than enough misinformation floating around to satisfy almost every nutcase and conspiracy theorists. When supposedly reputable sources provide “confirming” evidence through sloppy reporting we shouldn’t be very surprised.

As to the relative levels of freedom that Kiwis and Americans enjoy. Even though we don’t have guns to “protect” ourselves, I am admittedly biased and see Aotearoa as being significantly more free than America. Our gun ownership laws do not impinge on our freedoms, and in fact make this nation much safer and ensures we remain free. I do intend to look at the relative freedoms of our two nations at some time in the (hopefully not too distant) future.

Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and discovered I am autistic at the age of sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

5 thoughts on “Getting the facts right

  1. This is well said.
    While statistics usually work where large numbers are involved, it seems this is one case where the interpolation was done wrong.

  2. Agreed Barry, I did the course and held a firearms licence in NZ for many years and as I was a civilian who worked for a NZDF naval depot I was lucky that I could secure my weapons in a guarded Armoury, however the requirement for a secure firearms and ammunition safe was strict and the police would inspect these conformed to the law.

    From memory, even though the firearms were not registered as such owners had to declare what weapons they owned and of course the police could check any time and confirm this.

    Our depot would regularly have a heap of various firearms and ammunition delivered by the local police who had confiscated them from a domestic or criminal situation and they would be gas axed and deposited in a scrap metal bin.

    • To the best of my knowledge there has been no requirement to declare ownership of guns over the past 20 or more years, although this is about to change when gun registration is introduced in 2023/2024. Guns could change hands without notification. All that was required that the seller ensure the purchaser had a current firearms license. I believe licensed gun sellers are required to record some details from a firearms license, whereas private individuals don’t. The police can request to see those records. That applied to category A guns. Other weapons required a “permit to procure”, but those permits were not archived, so they have been useless to track gun ownership.

      Apart from compulsory military training while in high school, I’ve never handled a gun. Way back in the 60s we had 2 weeks of training three times per year. Parades and route marches where we were required to march with a .303 weren’t much fun, especially in summer while wearing heavy and bulky military jackets, that I think would have stopped almost any shrapnel. Nor was punishment (for sometimes trivial matters) which consisted of doing laps around the perimeter of a Rugby field with a .303 held out in front of you with arms horizontal to the ground. The number of laps required seemed to depend on how much the instructor had a personal dislike to you rather than the seriousness of the transgression. And of course if your arms lowered from the horizontal, another lap was added. Torture!

      However it was a different story when trying to be the first to sink 44 gallon drums anchored a short distance off shore while we were lying on the cliff top firing WW2 bren machine guns! Military training at high school was stopped before I completed my secondary school education, and I haven’t touched a gun since then. I wonder what happened to all the armouries that practically every high school had back then. Our school had enough .303 rifles to burden every boy in the school. School roll was around 1200 students, so I guess around 600 rifles, many of which had been disabled in various ways. there was a large number of .22 rifles that were used on the two firing ranges the school had, and then there were the machine guns, of which there were at least 6.

      • That is interesting Barry, especially about the military training at your school. I was in college in the second half of the 60’s however we had nothing like that.

        between 1909 and 1972 there was compulsory military training according to Google, your school must have been one of the last to change.

        My birthdate was however selected for compulsory military training for Vietnam, however the government was replaced by Labour and they stopped that process.

        • I had military training in 1961, 62 & 63 then we moved to another city where the school I attended hadn’t had training for many years. The previous school continued military training for at least another two years, by which time I had lost contact with former classmates.

          My birth date fortunately was not selected. Those were the days when I was still developing my pacifist ideas, and didn’t have the courage to register as a conscientious objector. That was tested a year later when I went through the harrowing process of objecting to being required to belong to a trade union, which was compulsory in almost every trade and profession at that time. Being required to represent yourself while the trade union could represent itself by an army of lawyers, before a five-member tribunal who I think would have made the Inquisition seem tame. Two hours of legal argument and cross examination was one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had. But I won my case, and although I was required by law to carry my conscientious objection certificate with me whenever I was working, I carried it with pride up until the day compulsory unionism was removed.

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