Gun retail will change after the Christchurch shooting

  • Opinion
  • March 18, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Gun retail will change after the Christchurch shooting

Each time I’ve travelled to a centre of world commerce like New York or Frankfurt, it’s crossed my mind that I may be caught up in a terrorist attack, but as soon as I walked through the tomokanga archway at Auckland Airport, I ceased to question whether I was safe. With the shooting on March 15, that certainty of safety ended.

As of today, 50 members of New Zealand’s Muslim community have lost their lives in a horrifying terrorist attack carried out while they were at prayer. Many of the victims were Kiwi citizens and permanent residents, as well as visitors from other countries, but in particular, I can’t stop thinking about the crushing unfairness of refugees who fled conflict to make their home in New Zealand, only to be confronted with lethal violence in a place of worship. They should all have been safe here.

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated in no uncertain terms that New Zealand’s gun laws can’t remain as they are:

“While work is being done as to the chain of events that led to both the holding of this gun licence, and the possession of these weapons, I can tell you one thing right now. Our gun laws will change. 

“There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017.  

Now is the time for change.”

‘Panic buying’ of weapons used in mass shootings is an established phenomenon in the US, and recent news reports indicate that New Zealand has seen its own run of sales on semi-automatic weapons, ammunition and magazines. Gun retailers are being called upon to voluntarily restrict sales of military-style semi-automatic weapons – this morning, Trade Me showed leadership by becoming the first to do so.

“Our view is that trading between licensed owners via Trade Me in a safe, trusted, transparent and traceable environment is better for New Zealand than many of the alternatives,” Trade Me said in a statement.

“But it is clear public sentiment has changed in relation to semi-automatic weapons and we acknowledge that, which is why we’re putting this ban in place. There is a bit of work involved in doing this but we will have these listings removed later today.”

Like many rural families, mine has participated in hunting pest species such as possums and deer for generations, and responsible gun use is a part of our lives.

However, I don’t believe there’s any need for private citizens to own military-style semi-automatic weapons in New Zealand. In my opinion, the only legitimate applications for a privately-owned gun in New Zealand are to hunt pest species for food or population control, and for farmers to perform euthanasia on terminally sick or injured stock. 

Semi-automatic weapons have legitimate applications for game hunters, but military-style semi-automatics are a different story. They are not a go-to weapon for day-to-day hunting. The're essentially overpowered toys, and are packed with features that are relevant not to the kind of hunting commonly practised in New Zealand but to war. 

I think it’s important to remember as we discuss gun ownership that New Zealand has no second amendment entrenching our right to bear arms – here, gun ownership is a privilege that’s always trumped by the community’s right to safety. Even in the US, the right to bear arms doesn’t mean any and all weaponry.

You’ve heard my opinion, but until the Government makes its promised move on gun laws, the decision to pull military-style semi-automatic weapons from the shelves now is up to gun retailers. 

I'm not asking gun retailers to do anything they don't want to do, and if there's sound reasons to keep military-style semi-automatics in circulation that I haven't considered, I'm interested in hearing them. But I'd like these retailers to consider asking their immediate communities about their preferences. Keep their eyes and ears open, and be brave enough to have tough conversations with staff and customers about the issue.

To hunt responsibly with a gun is to constantly think about gun safety. Safe hunters are aware at all times whether their gun is loaded, if it’s got the safety catch on, where the barrel is pointing, and the position of other members of their hunting party. Responsible gun owners are self-aware and understand risk management. To get through the next few weeks without a storm of public backlash, responsible gun retailers will need to do the same.

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