National News

NZ says owning guns is not a right

New Zealand's government is planning further restrictions to gun ownership, emphasising that owning guns is a privilege and not a right.

The new law would ban the sale of guns to overseas visitors, create a register to track all guns in the country, and require gun owners to renew their gun licences every five years instead of every 10. It would also allow police to weigh other factors such as a person's mental health and even what they had been posting on social media to determine whether they were fit to own a gun.

The government hopes MPs will approve the legislation by the end of the year.

The proposed measures build on legislation swiftly introduced in April to ban military-style weapons such as AR-15 style rifles, after a lone gunman in March killed 51 people at two Christchurch mosques.

The government has launched a buyback scheme to compensate people for the outlawed semi-automatics, and has so far collected and destroyed more than 3,200 weapons. The gun buyback and amnesty runs until December.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she thinks the vast majority of New Zealanders disagree with the US model under which gun ownership is seen as a constitutional right

Ms Ardern said that growing up in a rural farming area, she always understood New Zealanders had a practical need for owning guns.

"But at the same time I don't think that extends to this view that every New Zealand citizen has the need and right to generally arm itself," she said. "We're a society that I think has always drawn that very clear distinction."

She said that, for instance, there was no plan to arm New Zealand police, who typically patrol without carrying guns.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said the legislation would allow police to monitor people's social media accounts to determine whether they were fit to own weapons.

"What we do know is that the Christchurch terrorist was engaged on some sites which were promoting some pretty horrific material," Nash said. "So that's one thing police will have the ability to assess when they determine if someone is fit and proper to have a firearms licence."

The idea of a gun register is opposed by some groups including the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners and conservative politician David Seymour.

"Criminals, of course, will not register their guns, making the exercise almost worthless," Seymour said in a statement.

Brenton Tarrant, a 28-year-old Australian white supremacist, has pleaded not guilty to terrorism, murder and attempted murder charges following the March attacks. He remains in jail ahead of his trial, scheduled for next May.

© DPA 2019