New Zealand government introduced legislation on Friday aimed at further tightening the country’s gun laws. The bill, tabled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, will create a nationwide gun registry and criminalize certain firearm modifications, local newspapers report. If passed into law, it will require gun owners to register their weapons every five years.

The new law is in addition to the series of gun restrictions approved by the parliament following the Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15 that left 51 people dead. The country’s ruling Labour Party and the mainstream media launched a campaign against the country’s supposedly “weak laws on firearms” in the wake of the shootings. The government banned assault weapons such as the AR-15 and rolled out a buyback scheme, collecting more than 18,000 weapons.

“Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right,” Prime Minister Ardern declared. The proposed Arms Legislation Bill will stop guns “from reaching the hands of criminals,” she added.

Her remark was meant to highlight the difference between the gun-rights laws in New Zealand and the United States, Germany’s DW News noted: “Introducing the new bill, Ardern once more made clear the difference in attitudes toward gun ownership between her country and the United States, where the possession of firearms is seen by many as a citizen’s right as it is enshrined in the US Constitution.”

The New Zealand Herald reported the details of the proposed gun law:

[The Arms Legislation Bill] will hold the licence holder’s full name, date of birth and address, along with details of their licence number and any endorsements; details of firearms, restricted weapons and prohibited magazines including identifying markings and information on storage; and record all transfers, sales, purchases, imports and exports of firearms and other items. Private sales will still be permitted. (…)

It also introduces new offences and higher penalties and will see New Zealand accede to the United Nations (UN) Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition (the Firearms Protocol).

“We know that the majority of gun crime is committed by people without a licence, with firearms that have either been stolen or traded illegally,” [Prime Minister Jacinda] Ardern said as she announced the new gun laws in Christchurch today, six months after the mosque shootings in the city.

“Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right; that means we need to do all we can to ensure that only honest, law-abiding citizens are able to obtain firearms licences and use firearms.”

The April gun reforms took action to remove military-style semi-automatics while the new steps are aimed at stopping guns from reaching the hands of criminals, the Prime Minister added.

“Our focus since March 15 has been on ensuring that our communities are as protected as they can be from the potential for another attack like the horrific one we witnessed in Christchurch,” she said.

It is unclear how registering law-abiding gun owners will stop weapons from getting into the hands of the organized crime or how restricting firearms sales to ordinary citizens will prevent gun-related crime.

The bill also includes “provisions to enable health practitioners to notify Police if they have concerns about a licence firearms owner’s health or wellbeing,” Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported. “If the person presented to the doctor with mental health issues, the doctor would be expected to pass that information on to the police,” the broadcaster said.

The bill goes further than just addressing mental health issues and proposes “a system of warning flags to show if a person might not be fit to hold a firearms licence,” the RNZ added. “Behavior that would raise flags included encouraging or promoting violence; hatred or extremism.”

According to the 2018 Small Arms Survey, New Zealand ranks 17th globally in terms of gun ownership, with an estimated 1.5 million firearms spread across a population of nearly 5 million. New Zealanders own an estimated 26 guns per hundred residents, compared to more than 120 in the United Stated or 19 in Germany, the survey claims.

[Cover image via YouTube]


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