Time to shoot down gun hysteria
Being a licenced firearms owner and user has always been an important part of my life.
Ever since I was a small boy my father Stuart trained my brother and I in the safe and wise use of firearms when out hunting, and we have continued this family ritual with our children who love to hunt and shoot too.
As our modern society continues to evolve and change, many within our population increasingly lose connection with the rural scene and the public-access ethos to our valued wildlands.
Increasingly, our rapidly expanding urban populations, bureaucratic administrators, and political leaders lose sight of the history of our egalitarian origins, and how Acclimatisation Societies were formed in the new colony to introduce trout, salmon, ducks and deer, so that every person could have the right to hunt and fish, something they were largely forbade from doing in the English Motherland due to the barriers of class and wealth.
With the ducks, deer, and other game, came sporting firearms or guns, like rifles and shotguns used for hunting and other legitimate sporting purposes such as competitive target shooting. Guns used for these purposes by licenced recreational users have been around since the origins of our nation.
Of recent years, the general media has become increasingly hysterical about firearms and recently I wasn't particularly excited about a Nelson Mail editorial titled Gun law changes don't go far enough (June 26th).
Seeking wise counsel from local firearms experts I respect, it turned out that we all had concerns about the tenor of the editiorial, no matter how well-intentioned it may have tried to be.
Graeme Smith of Richmond, is a JP, a Life Member of the NZ Shooting Federation & NZ Deerstalkers Association, and a former manager of the International Shooting Team at two Olympics and three Commonwealth Games. Adding to this distinguished pedigree within the sporting firearms fraternity, Graeme is also an organiser of the World Bench Rest Shooting Championships to be held in Nelson at the Packers Creek Range over 10 days in November 2017, which will bring significant economic benefits to Nelson City.
Smith politely believed the editorial was "irresponsible and ill-informed" by wrongly criticising Police Minister Paula Bennett for throwing out many of the recommendations of the firearms select committee on issues relating to the illegal possession of firearms.
Taking further issue with the editorial Smith asked "Who is the gun lobby they describe?" and "Are we not allowed to lobby for the continuation and enjoyment of our own sport?".
Smith was also full of praise for Minister Bennett to stand up against the not insignificant influence of the police. "You've got to admire the Minister for the guts to have taken the tact that she has".
Firearms safety instructor of 35 years, Nigel Johnson of Nelson, also took issue with the Nelson Mail editorial talking of the "positive culture of New Zealand firearms usage".
Johnson explained how the "current firearms system is well understood and functional" and how the "police need to use the resources and tools they already have".
It's no secret that many illegal firearms incidents of recent years have not been well handled by police, largely through poor government funding, resources, equipment, systems and training. But punishing legitimate firearms users through unworkable firearms legislation and seeking to re-instate a 60 year failed system of New Zealand firearms registration isn't a smart path toward the future either.
According to Johnson, the select committee "admitted that firearms registration was a disaster in Canada but then still managed to recommend it to the Minister again".
In the end, it really all comes down to communication, and legitimate firearms owners have not been good at advocating for their own interests.
Simon Gibson, editor of Rod & Rifle Magazine, in the June/July 2017 Issue noted that "Committee member, MP Stuart Nash said at a recent meeting that if they had received 2000 submissions the Law & Order Select Committee probably would have hit the road to get public feedback but they only received 99 submissions so they stayed put. If licenced firearms users don't start speaking out to their MP's we will lose out."
Perhaps the best way to explain the brave decisions made by Paula Bennet (apparently a recently licenced firearms licence holder herself) is to selectively quote her own words from her press release of 14th June.
"The committee made 20 recommendations. After careful consideration I've accepted seven, rejected 12, and recommended one proceed with changes.
"We needed to strike the right balance between public safety and the rights of legal firearms owners. Although the report was well intended, I believe many of the recommendations would not decrease the flow of firearms to criminals and gangs but would unduly impact on legally licenced firearms users.
"I appointed two independent firearms experts to advise me. I've listened to their advice, advice from police, read the recommendations from the select committee and I've taken on board feedback from the public.
"I'm also proposing a Ministerial direction to the Police to require consultation with the firearms community when considering changes to the Arms Act and the interpretation of it.
"Nobody wants firearms getting into the hands of violent gang members but we also don't want over-the-top rules and restrictions to be placed on hunters and shooters who manage their firearms responsibly."
Out hunting yesterday, I spent the afternoon bush stalking locally. Pig and deer sign was prevalent and although I failed to see an animal to harvest I had a great time outside alone with my rifle, enjoying the cool forest and gurgling streams.
I pondered the future of continued firearms ownership and usage in New Zealand and thought about how the Minister's inspired directives still have to go before Cabinet for approval later in the later.
It did occur to me that the price of outdoor freedom is eternal vigilance against the dark forces that seek to smother, subvert, and control our legitimate sporting interests.
It's election year outdoor people, so use your voices and votes wisely.