New Zealand is tightening its gun laws after Christchurch — here's how they compare to ours
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According to Gun Control Australia, New Zealand's current gun laws are on par with where Australia's were before the Port Arthur massacre in 1996 in which 35 people died.
But following the Christchurch shooting last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a crackdown.
The question now is how New Zealand's new laws will compare to ours.
The necessary legislation will be introduced next month, but Ms Ardern says licensing regulations have already been updated, which means people won't be able to buy these weapons without a permit from police (and she says there's no point applying for one).
Dr Suzanna Fay, a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Queensland, says that includes a lack of clarity on what the bans will look like, ie whether the weapons will be banned for all purposes, or whether there will be exceptions for some licence holders.
As well, she says it's not clear exactly which weapons would be affected.
That confusion was also felt by the owner of a gun shop near Wellington, Wayne Chapman.
He says he still doesn't know what he could and could not legally sell when he left his business on Thursday.
"No-one's talked to us, no-one's asked us, no-one's told us anything," he told the ABC's PM program.
"We've already removed the high-capacity magazines off the shelf, we won't be selling them. I don't think I have any firearms that fit the category, I'm not exactly sure," he said.
That was a result of the gun control reforms brought in by the Howard government and the states between 1996 and 1998.
Gun Control Australia president Samantha Lee says Australia's laws will still be stronger in this regard because New Zealand's ban only covers military-style semi-automatics.
"That leaves out quite a wide variety of very serious other semi-automatics that can be easily converted into military-style firearms," she said.
She said the basic difference with military-style semi-automatics is their increased firing capability.
However, Dr Fay says it's still not clear exactly which weapons New Zealand are banning, which makes comparisons with Australia's laws difficult.
That includes the semi-automatic handgun which can be used for sport shooting.
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Ms Lee says these handguns are much easier to conceal than their longarm equivalents, are often used in drive-by shootings, and are the most commonly used gun in US mass shootings.
"It's a huge anomaly in our existing laws," she said.
However, Dr Fay says in most states, to have one of these guns you need go through a safety course, be a member at a gun club and have proof you're participating in competitive shooting.
As well, Ms Lee says a lever-action shotgun that the Christchurch shooter had in his cache is legally available across Australia as a general recreational hunting rifle.
Ms Lee says that includes:
Gun Control Australia says this is a missed opportunity for New Zealand, and what is needed is a comprehensive package so that there are no gaps.
Ms Lee says it's moments like this where change is possible.
"We saw after the Port Arthur massacre that the public sentiment and the public support for change was enormous," she said.
However, Dr Fay says you need to know what went wrong before you can prevent it from happening again, and we still don't know how the shooter got access to his weapons.
"I do think that we have some very key moments to really take hard looks at ourselves in terms of our society, and in terms of our regulations, and in terms of legislation," she said.
"I think that's very important to do after something as tragic as this. So it's definitely timely to look at these things, but when we look at them, I think we need to be asking the right questions."
As well, Dr Fay says what is needed in New Zealand with regards to gun control might not mirror what is needed elsewhere.
Ms Lee says the fact that the Christchurch shooter had a lever-action shotgun should ring alarm bells for Australians.
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"Those types of firearms are available to the lowest category of gun licence holder in Australia, and the widest category of gun ownership here in Australia," she said.
As well, she pointed to the fact that Australia's categorisations for firearms are 23 years old.
"Firearms technology and design has changed enormously over that time," she said.
She says that means rapid-style firearms, like the lever-action shotgun, are becoming available to hunters.
Dr Fay, meanwhile, says Australia has strict regulations surrounding semi-automatic firearms and this doesn't appear to be a major problem for Australia currently.
However, she says we should always be looking at our gun laws to make sure they're still fulfilling the aims of the National Firearms Agreement.
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