(I have been going through the hundreds of unpublished articles that I had originally intended to post to this blog, but for many reasons I never completed.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.
- All guns have been confiscated and Kiwis are “defenceless” against criminals and an authoritarian government
- 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.