Al talks to MPs about gun laws in New Zealand

26 August 2016

In late August, Prof Gillespie visited Parliament in Wellington to talk to a select committee about gun laws and gun control in New Zealand.

“With recent religious terrorists and ‘lone wolf’ attacks in Europe and the United States, it’s foreseeable that there will be more gun crime in New Zealand and around the world,” Prof Gillespie says. “The question is, are we doing everything possible within reason that could help prevent this?”

During his visit, Prof Gillespie urged MPs to launch a firearms register, particularly for higher-power weapons and those which could be easily converted and made more dangerous, in order to be able to help detect diversion of firearms from lawful, to illegal purposes.

Prof Gillespie says despite the firearms being recorded when they enter the country, no records exist when they’re sold to the consumer.

“Our inability to track and trace such firearms is so poor that we are unable to sign United Nations protocols designed to combat organized crime and the illegal trade in firearms,” he says.

“We need to address this issue before a mass shooting occurs and the public demand more extreme restrictions such as a complete ban due to the strong emotions that follow.”

To obtain a gun license in New Zealand, individuals have to undergo a free safety course to ensure they understand how to use and store a gun properly. Unlicensed gun holders have a higher possibility of a tragedy occurring, due to them not knowing how to use or store a gun properly.

Prof Gillespie supported the storage requirements and rules for gun safes being tightened, to represent the best practices available. Poor or lax storage is the easiest problem to fix. He also advised a buyback scheme to combat people with unlicensed firearms.

“There are on average 230,000 people with gun licenses in New Zealand and 4.5 million without them,” he says. “The vast majority of firearm license holders are lawful, but we need to ensure we have the best standards possible and help to prevent criminals from getting hold of these weapons.”

“We can’t completely stop criminals but we can implement the best practices possible. A good example is the speed limits we have on our roads – it doesn’t completely stop speeding but helps to minimize the risk.”